Serena Williams has claimed the year end No. 1 ranking at the WTA Finals without hitting a ball. It is the fourth time Williams has achieved this feat, (2002, 2009, 2013) and only the first time in her career she has finished the season No.1 on the WTA rankings in consecutive years.
Williams officially achieved the year end No. 1 ranking on a day she did not hit a ball. In fact, the world No. 1 has Agnieszka Radwanska to thank for making her season ending No. 1 ambitions easier. The Pole fought back from match points down to beat Maria Sharapova in three sets. If Sharapova had won in straights, she would still have had chances to finishes No. 1 after Caroline Wozniacki beat Petra Kvitova in straights, however the Pole, who has been in form this week, had too much fight for the Russian.
But, while Williams did not have to strike a ball on the day her 2014 year end No.1 ranking became official, she had to strike plenty of them to make finishing the year on top of the rankings possible. The American played 60 matches over 16 tournaments, compiled a 51-9 record, and won 6 tournaments (Brisbane, Miami, Rome, Stanford, Cincinnati and the U.S Open).
It was a very different season to the one she had in 2013. That year she was dominant as she won 12 tournaments including 2 slams. This season, on the other hand, was characterized by shock defeats at the big events. At the Australian Open, she lost to Ana Ivanovic after wining the first set, at the French Open she suffered her worst defeat at a slam for years to Garbine Muguruza in the second round, and at Wimbledon, perhaps most shockingly of all, she was beaten by Alize Cornet after leading by a set and seemingly cruising to victory.
In fact, Williams, who in 2009 joked then slamless world No. 1 Dinara Safina had won Madrid and Rome and so deserved the ranking (Williams at the time was the defending U.S and Australian Open champion and ranked No. 2) kept her ranking by winning similar titles as she disappointed in the big events.
However, Williams got her game back together as she cruised to the U.S Open title, winning the 18th slam that had been so successfully eluding her all season. Her No. 1 ranking however was not assured. The American pulled out of Wuhan with a viral illness and Beijing with a left knee injury and her participation at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore was in doubt until the last moment, as was her finishing the year end No.1 as Sharapova, fresh of a victory at the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, chased her in the rankings.
While Williams did enter the WTA finals and fought off a tough challenge from Ana Ivanovic in her opening match, Williams’s ranking was even more in doubt after she lost 0-6, 2-6 to Simona Halep in their round robin match. But Williams, arguably the game’s toughest competitor, came back fighting. The American, who said she did not think she could play tennis again after that Halep defeat, came out the next day and played some of her very best tennis as she blasted 16 winners against Eugenie Bouchard, dropping just two games along the way.
Now, with the WTA year end No. 1 ranking wrapped up, Williams can focus on winning the WTA Finals for the third consecutive year. The world No.1 comes up in the semi-finals against in-form Caroline Wozniacki. The American leads her Danish rival and close friend 9-1 in their head to head and, now she is officially the best player of 2014, will be expected to play like so in their meeting tomorrow.
Commentary by Christian Deverille