October 29, 2012
The last WTA tennis tournament of the year has just finished, with Serena Williams taking the WTA Championship title in Istanbul. This is the third time that Serena has won this tournament after previous wins in 2001 and 2009. Her opponent today, Maria Sharapova, was victorious in 2004 – co-incidentally beating Williams in that final!
As it is the end of the season, the final World rankings for the year are now complete. The top five players in the last year were:
- Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
- Maria Sharapova (Russia)
- Serena Williams (USA)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland)
- Angelique Kerber (Germany)
Each of these players has had a great season, but will need to enjoy the rest break and come back strong to maintain their place in the elite of the sport and fight of the challenges from up-and-coming youngsters.
The 23 year old from Belarus finished the season as the top female tennis player in the world and became only the 11th different player to win the end of season trophy for being top ranked player. Azarenka was dominant all season, with only four weeks after the French Open when she was not in that position.
Azarenka started the season with victory in the Australian Open and followed up with a further five tournament victories and two Olympic medals. Azarenka was the losing finalist in the US Open. Her 26-match unbeaten streak in January was the best for 15 years – since Martina Hingis won 37 successive matches in 1997.
With a total of 14 tournament victories, Azarenka is already fifth on the list of current players and has plenty more years of tennis in her.
Sharapova was the only other woman to hold the World number one ranking in 2012, coming after her victory in the French Open – giving her a career Grand Slam and 10 Grand Slam victories in total. The 25-year-old Russian also lost the final of the Australian Open and reached the semi-final of the US Open – losing both to Azarenka. In other tournaments, she was successful on two occasions and also took an Olympic silver medal in the singles.
A relative veteran, Sharapova is still only 25, but has been at the top of women’s tennis for almost a decade.
Victory in the WTA Championship is the perfect end of the tennis year for the World number 3, who was victorious in seven tournaments. The highlights of those were victories at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympics. Williams has now taken 15 Grand Slam titles as a singles player and another 13 as a doubles player with her sister Venus.
The veteran American has been one of the most successful female players of all time, but at 31 cannot have too many years left at the top of the sport. Within the next few years, Serena will retire with a tennis legacy that few players will ever rival.
The fourth placed player at the end of the year had a solid season, but did not win any of the Grand Slams. Her best performance was losing finalist at Wimbledon. She did, however win three tournaments to move her up into the top five for the first time ever. At one point in July Radwanska was ranked as high as second, but slipped down after missing some tournaments through injury and illness.
As one of the two newest members of the top-five, Radwanska has a promising future and it is only a matter of time before she wins her first Grand Slam.
Another player with a promising future, Kerber was outside the top twenty in the world at the start of the year, but impressive and consistent performances including two WTA tournaments. Her best performance in a Grand Slam was losing semi-finalist at Wimbledon.
Kerber has risen rapidly up the rankings this year and will be another player challenging in tournaments for a number of seasons to come.
The top players do not have a long rest, with the first Grand Slam tournament in Australia starting at the end of January, These players will be the favorites to win each time they play, but many good players are just below them in the rankings and can challenge for glory in any tournament they play in. Some new players will move up the rankings rapidly and the top five at the end of next year could be entirely different.