|Kim Clijsters returns the ball to Na Li during the women's singles final at the Sydney International on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Daniel Munoz)
SYDNEY, Australia -- China's Li Na pulled off a stunning upset of Belgium's Kim Clijsters in Friday's title match at the Sydney International.
Li stormed back after losing the first five games of the match to claim a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 triumph for her fourth career WTA title.
It was a surprising defeat for the third-seeded Clijsters, who previously won this Australian Open tuneup in 2003 and 2007.
Clijsters had entered the final 4-1 lifetime against Li, including wins at this event in 2006 and 2007. She was in prime position to improve that mark after winning the first five games of the match. Li, however, won the next five and the first set went to a tiebreak.
The eighth-seeded Li then dropped three of the first four points of the tiebreak, but followed by winning six straight points to capture the first set.
After a trade of early breaks in the second set, Li broke again for a 3-1 lead and never relinquished serve the rest of the way to finish the match.
Li became the first Chinese woman to win a Premier level event. She improved to 4-4 lifetime in WTA finals.
The 11th-ranked Li had a strong 2010 campaign that began with a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open. She won the Wimbledon tuneup in Birmingham and reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club.
Li will open her stay in Melbourne next week with a first-round match against Sofia Arvidsson.
Clijsters, who was denied her 41st career WTA crown, has a potentially difficult first-round match next week against former world No. 1 Dinara Safina.