Azarenka wins Championships opener

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Istanbul, Turkey ( - Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka was an opening-day winner at the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul.

The second-seeded Belarusian star got past sixth-seeded Italian Sara Errani 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 on the indoor hardcourt at Sinan Erdem Dome. The Australian Open champion Azarenka was down a pair of breaks, trailing 2-5 in he first set, before charging back to handle Errani. The first set took a lengthy 1 hour, 27 minutes to complete.

Istanbul is hosting this prestigious event for a third and final time before it shifts to Singapore next year.

The 2011 runner-up Azarenka (1-0) spearheads this week's four-player White Group, which also features Errani (0-1), fourth-seeded Aussie Open runner-up Li Na and seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic.

The four-woman Red Group is led by world No. 1 Serena Williams and also includes third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, fifth-seeded 2011 titlist Petra Kvitova and eighth-seeded Angelique Kerber. The U.S. and French Open champion Williams and Kerber are currently on court.

The three-time Championships titlist and two-time runner-up Williams is the reigning champ, having beaten Maria Sharapova in last year's finale in Turkey. An injured Sharapova was unable to return this year.

Round-robin play will be staged Tuesday through Friday, followed by semifinal action on Saturday and a lucrative final on Sunday.