Serena Williams – A Remarkable Year

Last week, Serena Williams defeated all-comers in Istanbul at the year-end WTA Championships, including Maria Sharapova in the final 6-4, 6-3. After winning her third WTA Championship, she talked about how important it was to her to finish the year strong: “It was really important for me to end the year with this title in particular…It was good for my sanity to win. I really wanted it although I didn’t need it.”

And what an amazing year it has been…after being sidelined for most of 2010 and 2011 with a foot injury, then recovering from surgery to remove blood clots in her lungs. In 2012, Serena came back more focused than ever, inspired by her sister’s grit and courage dealing with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome – altering Venus’ lifestyle and training, yet always enduring.

This year, Serena won Wimbledon, Olympic Gold in both singles and doubles, the US Open, and now the WTA Championships. She ends the year with a remarkable 59-4 record, and seven titles overall. While her play was stellar following her first-round loss at Roland Garros, the slow start to  the year cost her in the overall standings. Serena finishes the year ranked #3 in the world, behind Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.

Maria’s consistency in 2012 is quite remarkable, as well – finishing the year ranked #2 in the world. She was a finalist at the Australian Open (lost to Victoria Azarenka), finalist at Indian Wells (lost to Victoria Azarenka), finalist at the Sony Ericsson; but then won Stuttgart – finally winning her first 2012 match over Vika. Maria went on to win the Italian Open, then completed the career Grand Slam by winning the 2012 French Open title. After a 4th round exit at Wimbledon, Maria won silver at the Olympics, then made it to the US Open semifinals where she lost to Victoria Azarenka again; but at the year-end WTA Championships, Sharapova got the last laugh in her rivalry with Azarenka, defeating Victoria in the semifinals.

Obviously, 2012 was kind to Victoria Azarenka as well – finishing the season #1 in the world, after capturing the top ranking with her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. She spent the first part of the year undefeated, too – winning Sydney before the Open, Qatar after the Open, then Indian Wells, and finally lost to Marion Bartoli at the Sony Ericsson…ending her 26 match winning streak. She was then a finalist at Stuttgart, a finalist at Madrid (on the blue clay, where she was defeated easily by Serena Williams), withdrew from the Italian Open due to shoulder strain, and lost in the 4th round of the French Open. At Wimbledon, Vika lost to Serena Williams in the semifinals, won Bronze in Singles and Gold in Mixed at the Olympics, then lost to Serena again in the US Open Final. After a win at Tokyo, Vika then went on to win Linz prior to her appearance in Istanbul, and finished the year with six titles.

As the year comes to a close, with the Fed Cup Final this weekend between the Czech Republic and Serbia…and the Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria, here’s how the top-10 stack up:

1) Victoria Azarenka

2) Maria Sharapova

3) Serena Williams

4) Agnieszka Radwanska

5) Angelique Kerber

6) Sara Errani

7) Li Na

8) Petra Kvitova

9) Sam Stosur

10) Marion Bartoli

Though, if Caroline Wozniacki wins her semifinal tomorrow in Bulgaria, she’ll have a nice late season rebound and finish 2012 in the top-10.

Petra Kvitova is questionable for this weekend’s Fed Cup Final, dealing with a virus that kept her from competing in Istanbul last week.

Kim Clijsters will play one more match, by the way – December 12th at the Kim’s Thank You Games at the Antwerp Sports Palace. Venus Williams will be her opponent.