Steamrolling Serena ends yet another successful year

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The female tennis season came to an end after Italy won their fourth Fed Cup after beating Russia in the final. It may not be one of the most competitive or controversial seasons in tennis history, but it definitely can be considered as one of the most entertaining.

Despite Serena Williams having a less than perfect start in the earlier part of the season, her performances in the latter part of the year, (including two grand slam titles and the WTA championship trophy) won her the top place in the season-ending singles ranking – the first time she’s done so since 2009.

Her performances this year have one again proven her to be one of the true legends of tennis. Now with 17 grand slams titles to her name, she needs only one more grand slam trophy to be in the company of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova – who hold the most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era.

Despite Serena’s success, it was not the ideal season Victoria Azarenaka had hoped for. The Belarusian blonde, clinched the Aussie Open in January but found herself on the wrong end of Williams for the majority of the year. Not only was she defeated in the US open final, but she also had her No.1 ranking grasped away from her by the American too. The difference between Williams and her closest competitor can be seen by her nearly doubling the amount of ranking points they each amassed this year.

Poster girl Maria Sharapova’s strong form was unfortunately interrupted by injuries this year. She was forced to withdraw from the US open and WTA championship after getting into the semi-final and final of the Australian and French Open respectively. Despite injury, it’s a big pity for the player and fans to see her form diminish after leaving Roland Garros as a finalist. Questions could also be raised regarding her growing presence off the court, with new products emblazoned with her name and her acquired celebrity status, as both could be seen as a distraction from her professional tennis career.

Concurrently, Li Na, who is the only Asian female to win a grand slam title, managed to return to top form after a disappointing 2012 season. Reaching the finals of the Australian Open and WTA championship have shown tennis fans around the world that she is back to her French Open-winning best.

This year also witnessed the breakthrough of many young female tennis players including Sabine Lisicki and particularly the American Sloane Stephens. Lisicki, who is currently 24, became the finalist of Wimbledon after defeating Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska in the 4th round and semi-final respectively. 20 year old Stephens shocked everyone at the Australian Open by  defeating Williams in the quarter-final of the tournament. At such a young age, significantly she is on the brink of breaking into the top 10 of women’s tennis, critically the first American to do so since Williams in 1999.

Other shocks throughout the year included Marion Bartoli’s decision to retire 40 days after winning her first grand slam title in London at the slender age of 28 due to recurring injuries. Bartoli believed her body could not support her career anymore and leaving the court permanently would be the only option, meaning the unorthodox technique of Bartoli will be missed on the circuit.

Many former top players have shown the world once again that they are ready for new challenges in upcoming years. Jelena Jankovic’s strong run in the final part of the season won her a ticket to the WTA championship, as well as other former No.1 players like Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic finding their form at the end of the season too.

The next female tennis season will hopefully become more interesting as competition among the best female tennis players becomes stronger. With fewer injuries we will perhaps see more women challenging World No.1 Williams, making it difficult for her to maintain this season’s success into next year.

Despite the season coming to a close, the last tournament of the male tennis calendar will soon begin in London. The top eight male players including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Juan Martin Del Porto, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer ,Stainislas Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet will all compete in the O2 arena in the capital. The tournament will start on the 4th November without injured Andy Murray and will be an opportune moment for players to claim the year’s biggest silverware outside a grand slam.

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