Li Na of China won her fourth career WTA title Friday, overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the first set to beat third-seeded Kim Clijsters 7-6 (3), 6-3 in the Sydney International final.
Clijsters jumped out to an early lead, but the U.S. Open champion from Belgium collapsed in that set and played poorly in the second.
Before Friday, Clijsters had won 27 of her previous 30 matches, collecting a third U.S. Open title and the 2010 year-end championship.
The 27-year-old Clijster's three defeats since Wimbledon last July had all come at the hands of Vera Zvonareva, the Russian who Clijsters would have displaced as the second-ranked player with a victory over Li.
Instead, Clijsters's serve and forehand completely deserted her when she seemed certain to land her third title in Sydney and 41st of her career. She had 27 unforced errors and lost 13 of the last 17 games.
"We've had some really tough battles in the past," Clijsters said. "I didn't played my best tonight, but she did and she deserved to win."
Earlier, Gilles Simon of France won all but three points in the second set to defeat third-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 7-6 (1), 6-0 and advance to the men's final, where he will face Viktor Troicki of Serbia. The fourth-seeded Troicki defeated Florian Mayer of Germany 6-4, 7-6 (4) at Sydney Olympic Park.
"OK, I made three points — bad luck," Gulbis said. "Next time, I will make four."
Simon, who battled a knee injury for six months of 2010 and slipped to No. 41 from a career-high No. 6, was pleased with more court time.
"I know on the court I can play three hours even if it's 40 degrees [Celsius] outside," Simon said. "I know that if the match is difficult, if we have to run, fight on every point, at the end it's good for me."
Simon has won all four of his matches against Troicki.