On Saturday, Serena Williams (above) defeated Aggie Radwanska, in a waltz, needing only fifteen games.
Yesterday, if she was to defeat world #2 Maria Sharapova, who has not beaten Serena since 2004, then she would have won the 4 most recent most meaningful titles, counting Wimbledon, The Olympics, The US Open, and the championship contested here in Istanbul, in which the top 8 players in the world participated in a double elimination format prior to the semi-finals and finals. Serena showed her dominance all week by beating Kerber, Azarenka, and Na, all in 2 straight sets in the RR and then dusted the world #4 from Poland in straights in the semis. Sharapova was the latest victim, falling 6-4, 6-3 to the most dominant #3 of all time. Sharapova pushed back and dug in to the best of her ability, in one service game that spanned more than 10 minutes during the first set, she held despite a torrent of winners from Williams, especially return winners. But this match was not close. Serena broke in Masha’s 2nd service game, and in her 3rd game, Sharapova clawed for dear life to stay alive, as consecutive breaks there would have been committed to stone. Serena also broke early in the 2nd set, so it’s not really like we were sitting there wondering who was going to win this match. Sharapova’s best moments were purely survivalist, keeping things closer than they should have been, the way she could not at the Wimbledon Olympiad, where Serena handed her her ass in 55 minutes, 6-0, 6-1.
In fact, we felt the score line was not indicative of the facts. Serena was imposing, completely controlling the baseline, and dictating a lot of points on Maria’s serve, both first and second. And Serena out-winnered Sharapova 40-13. To be frank, this one seemed like batting practice for Williams. So this week’s work, 5 matches, 10 sets, straight money. We’d like to hold up Serena as exhibit A in the lesson in the basic but all important and never read tennis bible. Hold your serve. Serena had 11 aces today, and 11 the other day, against Azarenka when the match was decided by only a few points. We’ve said for months, too, that Azarenka is the best consistent point player in the game. But she doesn’t have the serve. In a match in which the points were 69-57, Serena hit 11 aces and 0 doubles. Azarenka hit no aces and had 9 doubles. Ladies and gentlemen, that was your match. It’s not just that she has the big serve, but also the proficiency, the high percentages and mistake free, clean and fast business like service games that no other woman in the sport can put up.
Azarenka is a very strong #1, certainly with no Serena in the picture, but as is, is really not that bad of a number one considering the Jankovics and Wozniackis. She’s a major champion and clear cut 1B, worthy of her position. Personally, we feel that she looked a bit tired this week, despite a command performance against Na Li in which she broke serve 5 times in a row. We felt that just from a probability point of view that Azarenka would have had a decent chance in the finals, knowing how hard she would be to play and beat twice in a row in a few days time. But Serena has the bigger game, which has carried her to grand success after a never before round 1 major loss, which she suffered at Roland Garros. Some parallel might be seen between her hiring Patrick Mourataglou of the academy by that same name in Paris. Mourataglou also coaches Grigor Dimitrov, and seems to have helped the young 1-hander to improve. We’d also chalk some of Serena’s incredible run up to her getting onto faster courts. Azarenka is great of combinations, the best there is, but needs the longer points that come more on clay and Plexicushion. She will get her chances on those surfaces and will probably prove out. But Serena owns the better surfaces, and deserves to be favored heading into all of the majors.
Now revel in these stats. 9 straight against Sharapova. Also, Sharapova has not taken a set off Serena since 2008. Ho hum. 12-0 in her last 12 versus the top 1 or 2 player. An obscene unbeaten streak against the world #1 & #2 dating back to August of 2007. Serena ends the year on a ridiculous 31-1 tear, taking her 3rd career WTA Championships, and becoming the oldest woman ever at 31 years of age to win the coveted year end title.
Serena finishes the year with a mark of 59-4 and 7 titles. Her last loss was to Angelique Kerber in Cincinnati. The last time she was pushed to 3 sets was by Azarenka in the US Open final. Serena also did not drop a set at the Olympics, where she dropped only 14 games in 5 matches, crushing Azarenka in the semis 6-1, 6-2, and Sharapova in the gold medal match, 6-0, 6-1.
Serena ended the year with a staggering .937 winning percentage, having only lost to Wozniacki, Razzano, Makarova, and Kerber. All is well in the women’s game, with Serena again ascending to dominant, with Sharapova winning a major this year and reclaiming a spot near the top, and with the rise of Azarenka, who we consider to be the best player in tennis, shot to shot. And Radwanska is an adequate #4, someone not likely to beat the players ahead of her but not likely to lose to the ones below her. The Radwanska style, in effect, a better Wozniacki, but one who will not rise higher because the girls ahead of her are just better players across the board, and there is no way to gimmick your way to victories over the Serenas, Azarenkas, and Sharapovas of the world.
We’d expect players like Stosur, Kvitova, and Na to also take their places ahead of Radwanska as well in the new year, should they play to their fullest potential. For the first time since Serena’s unfortunate World Cup Soccer spectator accident in 2010 and subsequent health problems, the women’s game is all quality at the top, and the rankings are more or less reflective of the true state of the women’s game, devoid of pretenders and paper champions.
We were also very happy to see that Serena’s nemesis, obsessed racist foot fault Nazi, Eva Asderaki, was able to chair at an event without becoming the center of attention, for a change. So all really is right in the women’s game (Though Lindsay Davenport can allocate the checks better when pre-grading the players for their matches on TTC. We are often annoyed at how freely she’s been handing out checks, especially to bad volleyers.), heading toward Melbourne in 2013 where Azarenka will try to defend her crown, and where Serena will be looking for her 16th singles major.