|The Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova won the WTA Championships after being ranked 34th in the world in 2010 [Reuters]
Petra Kvitova has defeated Victoria Azarenka to win the WTA Championships and claim the $1.75m jackpot.
The 21-year-old Czech, who won Wimbledon this year, displayed power and skill in Istanbul on Sunday, overpowering Azarenka despite losing the second set. The final score was 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, and Kvitova remained undefeated at the year-ending event featuring the world's top eight players.
Kvitova completed the championship at a career-high, after ending 2010 ranked 34th in the world.
Left-handed Kvitova's free-flowing game took her into a 5-0 lead in the opening set at the Sinan Erdem Dome, but she lost the next five games. A fifth set point helped her eke out a victory, but not without a fierce battle from Azarenka.
Azarenka won the second set and had three break points at the start of the third, failing to convert any of them. This allowed Kvitova to regain control, taking the title on her debut at the showpiece tournament before a crowd of 13,600.
Kvitova is the first Czech to win the Championships since Jana Novotna in 1997. She stands to add to her success when she leads her country in the Fed Cup final against Russia next week.
Kvitova has won her last 19 indoor matches, due in part to the pace of her forehand and serving accuracy.
She immediately broke Azarenka’s signature serve with one of many effective drop shots she played throughout the match. A searing forehand sealed the early break and she struck again two games later when a flustered Azarenka missed the line with a straightforward forehand.
Kvitova called her coach David Kotyza on to court for a chat before the start of the deciding set but the Czech found herself under more pressure as Azarenka engineered three break points but failed to take any of them.
This was the turning point and Kvitova took command when Azarenka blazed a forehand long to drop serve.
Azarenka, of Belarus, will end the year ranked number three after winning three titles. She resisted bravely on Sunday but Kvitova sealed victory when Azarenka netted a simple backhand volley after a superb point.