Hitting 40 winners and making just 14 unforced errors, Serena Williams won the WTA Championships in Istanbul today by defeating Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3. Williams has now beaten Sharapova nine consecutive times.
The victory in Istanbul gives Williams her seventh title of the season and also makes her the oldest player (31) to ever win the Championships. The champion's performance in the final was nothing short of stunning; her return game alone was deadly, even against the likes of Sharapova, who never even saw a break point. Williams also hit eleven aces along the way, and didn't drop one set throughout the tournament. This was her third time to win the Championships.
Williams is 58-4 for the season. She won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and two Olympic gold medals, as well as titles in Charleston, Madrid and Stanford. If that isn't Player of the Year, I don't know what is.
Sharapova, for her part, fared better against Williams in Istanbul than she did at the Olympic Games, when Williams beat her 6-0, 6-1.
Other Russians did better. Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, the last team to qualify for Istanbul, won the championship, defeating Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-1, 6-4. This has been an excellent year for both Russians, in doubles and singles.
The trophy ceremony was a bit intense, with the crowd expressing some of its local political likes and dislikes. All the winning players were worth listening to, and toward the end, we were treated to a rather endearing image of Maria Kirilenko picking confetti out of Serena's hair.
Women Who Serve gives a nod to Kevin Skinner, who chose to defy the WTA's official sexism and introduce and refer to Stacey Allaster as a "chairwoman." I enjoyed the commentating this week by Skinner and Alicia Molik on Tennis TV, and Brett Haber, working for Tennis Channel, made me laugh several times. It was also a treat to have Mary Pierce in the broadcast booth for just a while.
In the end, the 2012 WTA Championships event (or rather, the singles portion of the event) was a solid statement on The Way Things Are. The defending champion, Petra Kvitova, had to withdraw because of illness, which has been an unfortunate theme for the Czech star all year. And Williams, ranked number 3 in the world, beat both the number 1 and number 2 players in the world to claim the title.
It's nice when things go as they "should," but it's also fun to be surprised, and the team of Kirilenko and Petrova gave us the the surprise part of the tournament, taking out both the world number 1 team, and then winning the whole thing.