Serena: The real story of 2012

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: October 29 2012, 14:48 GMT

In a year in which the headlines have, once again, largely been made by the men's game, it is a shame that the story of women's tennis in 2012 has not received the attention it deserves.

Serena Williams: Won 58 of her 62 matches in 2012

What the likes of Andy Murray and Roger Federer have achieved this season should not be underestimated, but Serena Williams' year arguably tops the lot.

It's probably a case of familiarity breeds contempt for it is now 13 years since the American won the first of her 15 Grand Slam singles titles.

However, based on what we have seen in 2012 there are still plenty more to come.

Wimbledon and the US Open were both captured this season - not forgetting the Olympic gold medal - before the 31-year-old wrapped things up with a dominant display at the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul.

As if to underline her position as the best player in the world (forget what the rankings say, this is the truth) Williams did not drop a set in Turkey and at the weekend lost just three games to world number four Agnieszka Radwanska in her semi-final before not allowing Maria Sharapova a single break point in their final clash - the best serve the women's game has ever seen has somehow got even better in 2012.

Adding further drama to the tale, it should be remembered that all this has been achieved just 18 months after Williams was "on her deathbed" after doctors discovered blood clots on her lungs.

Figures help prove just how good Williams has been.

Sunday's victory over Sharapova brought Williams her seventh title of the season - her best tally since 2002, the only year the player herself rates better, by the way.

It also rounded off her win-loss tally for the season to 58-4. Only Justine Henin, in 2007, has a better winning percentage than Williams' 93.5 since 1990.

The second half of the season was simply stunning. After a shock loss in the first round of the French Open, Williams won 31 of her 32 matches, most with consummate ease.

On average she conceded less than six games per match in this period, her power off the ground overwhelming numerous opponents, although significantly Williams was able to prove, when necessary, that she has the mental toughness to win tight matches - her win over Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final being a case in point.

Given that statistical run-down, casual tennis fans will wonder why, on the same day Williams crushed Radwanska, it was Azarenka picking up the trophy as the WTA's year-end number one.

In previous years I've leapt to the defence of the ranking system, one which produced top-ranked players such as Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki without those players winning one the game's biggest prizes, a Grand Slam title.

Azarenka 10,595pts
Sharapova 10,045
Williams 9,400
Radwanska 7,425

Essentially the system rewards consistency across the entire tour - give too much weight to the Grand Slams and the week-in, week-out WTA tournaments mean little.

However, right now I'm struggling to argue that it has worked this season. Williams has been considered the best player in many previous years but simply hasn't played often enough to warrant the top spot on paper.

This season though she's played more than 60 matches, winning the vast majority, yet has still missed out.

Her decision not to play in two of the WTA's biggest events - Indian Wells and Beijing, both of which were won by Azarenka - ultimately proved costly. However, the good news for her fans, and, many would argue, tennis in general, is that is it now almost inevitable that Williams will return to the summit of her sport at some point in the New Year.

In her own words, Williams admits she had a "slow start" to 2012 - her Australian Open defeat to Ekaterina Makarova now seems almost inexplicable - but it now means she can gain plenty of ranking points if, as the bookmakers and most pundits expect, she wins the title in Melbourne in January.

In contrast, Azarenka, who won her first 26 matches this season, is only likely to lose points.

It may be a little late in coming, but perhaps then Williams will receive the plaudits she so richly deserves.

Do you agree with Andy? Is Serena the world's best? You can email your thoughts to tennisfeedback@sportinglife.com or send them via Twitter to @NetTalkTennis.


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