California: Sam Stosur won the Southern California Open on Sunday for her first title in nearly two years, beating top-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-3. The fifth-seeded Stosur of Australia had lost all of her previous eight matches against Azarenka, winning only two sets. The win was Stosur's fourth career singles title and the first since she won her only major, the 2011 U.S. Open.
"I think this is a huge boost for me," said Stosur. "I haven't had great results for really all year, so to be able to bounce back and come away with this is really exciting and a good boost going into the last slam of the year."
Later Sunday, Azarenka withdrew from Rogers Cup in Toronto because of a lower back injury.
"I'm so disappointed that I can't make it to Toronto as I added it to my schedule knowing what an important event it is," Azarenka said. "I am sorry to all my Canadian fans and I will work hard to get healthy and back on the courts as soon as possible."
Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion, played another loose match, committing 32 unforced errors including seven double faults, and had only 11 winners.
"I think I was taking too many wrong kind of decisions or too risky decisions when there was no need to be risky," she said. "I didn't try to sometimes stay in the rally. I just wanted to make what sometimes I can make with eyes closed. (Sunday) I didn't do it with open eyes."
Stosur, playing in her first final since October, hit 20 winners compared to 29 unforced errors, but played the key points well, including saving 11 of 12 break points.
"That was a really big part of the match," Stosur said. "That first set, she did have lots of opportunities. I think nearly all of them except one I hit a really good first serve in and she didn't make the ball into play."
Stosur, ranked No. 13, requested and was granted a wild-card into the event after she lost her opening-round match last week at Stanford in the Bank of the West Classic. Stosur had victories over No. 4-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska and the third-ranked Azarenka, the first time she has defeated two top-five players in an event since the 2011 WTA Championships.
"You can practice all you want, but at some point, you got to put it into play in matches," Stosur said. "That was the reasoning behind coming here. You got to put yourself under that pressure of playing matches. That's why I came, and obviously now, very, very pleased with that decision."
Azarenka, who will move into the No. 2 ranking ahead of Maria Sharapova on Monday, was playing her first tournament since withdrawing from Wimbledon with a right knee injury before her second-round match. Azarenka set the tone early when she didn't win a point on her first service game of the match, including consecutive double faults to give Stosur a 2-0 lead. She then scored her only break of the match on Stosur's serve in the next game before the Aussie broke back for a 3-1 lead.
In a key game, Stosur fended off five break points in the next game to hold her serve and take a 4-1 lead en route to winning the first set. Stosur held a huge advantage with her serve in the set over one of the game's best returners. Stosur, who had six aces, won 73 percent of her first serves compared to Azarenka, who won just 43 percent. Azarenka was even worse on her second serves, winning only 30 percent.
Azarenka improved her game slightly in the second set as the pair were on serve until Stosur struck with the only service break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. Stosur improved her record in finals to 4-12.