Victoria Azarenka got past Ana Ivanovic in three sets to reach the final of the Southern California Open and secure a return to No.2 in the world. Samantha Stosur awaits her in the final.
WTA Staff

CARLSBAD, CA, USA - Victoria Azarenka survived a second half surge from Ana Ivanovic on Saturday to move through to the final of the Southern California Open and secure a return to No.2.

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The No.2-seeded Azarenka had won the pair's last two meetings in straight sets and things looked headed the same way as she rolled through the first set at love; the No.7-seeded Ivanovic didn't go quietly, capturing the second set and staying on serve through 2-all in the third set, but a love break in the next game gave Azarenka total control of the decider, and she rode it to a 60 46 63 victory.

"Ana is really a very big shotmaker - she loves to take her opportunities and just bang the ball and find those deep shots," Azarenka said. "That's what she does, and I was aware of that. For me, it was key to not let her take those shots, and I had to be the one putting the consistent pressure on her."

"She's No.3 for a reason," Ivanovic said. "I felt like I gave her too many easy points, especially at the important moments, like deuces. But again, that's the belief you have to have against these kind of players. If you give them chances, they'll use them. I actually created a lot of chances myself, and if I just managed to convert a couple more of those chances, it could have been a different match."

Azarenka's win means she will flip spots with Maria Sharapova on Monday, moving from No.3 to No.2.

At night, No.5 seed Samantha Stosur followed Azarenka into the final, overcoming a slow start to beat French wildcard Virginie Razzano, 76(2) 63. Razzano, who had taken out seeded players in the last two rounds, came out blazing to a 4-0 lead - Stosur regrouped though, eventually winning in straights.

"I don't feel like I was playing too badly at the start to be 4-0 down - she was just hitting lots of winners and really making me move a lot," Stosur said. "At that point I thought, 'Okay, I've got to obviously do something to change this.' So I tried to be a little bit more aggressive and really lean in off of the front foot a lot earlier in the rally than what I was doing until that point. That's what changed the match."

Azarenka has beaten Stosur in all eight of their previous meetings, but there's an asterisk - their last two meetings, at the US Open last year and Rome this year, are the only three-setters in there.

"Sam has one of the best serves there is," Azarenka said. "She is also very athletic and puts this great spin on it and is never afraid to take chances. She's a great shotmaker as well. The US Open was an incredible match - she was right there on every point. It was such a high quality match from both of us that it was incredible. She'll be very motivated to beat me, as well - there's no doubt about that."

"Obviously I haven't got a very good record against her at all, but the last few times we've played have been pretty close," Stosur said. "I think a big part of it is the serve for me. She's probably the best returner in the game, and really makes you work on serve. I'm going to have to serve well and be patient in that area, and I have to return well too. The start of the points are pretty crucial. It's going to be tough. I'm sure there will be some up and down moments throughout the match tomorrow.

"But as long as I have some more up ones than down ones, hopefully it can be all right."