As the eyes of the tennis tour turn to London's O2 Arena and the top eight men, Wimbledon.com takes a look at what a year it's been for Serena Williams...
For most tennis players, their early 30s are the time when the feet go up, the rackets go away and winning titles becomes more of a memory than a reality. For Serena Williams, who turned 32 last month, the opposite appears to be true. Her victory in the WTA Championships last weekend gave her an 11th title of 2013, including two Grand Slams to take her overall tally to 17 and putting her a mile clear at the top of the rankings.
Her record of 78 wins to four losses, not including one walkover she handed to Marion Bartoli in Dubai, is her best ever record and the ninth best ever on the WTA Tour (Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf bettered it, but it’s not bad being behind them in the list).
Forums and internet discussions have suggested that 2013 will go down as Williams’ best year and certainly her consistency has been outstanding. But does it outshine 2012, when she won Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open?
For a five-time Wimbledon champion chasing Grand Slam records – she is just one behind Navratilova and Chris Evert – her defeat by Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round has to be a huge disappointment. A sixth title at the All England Club was seemingly hers for the taking but, as she did at the Australian Open, when she lost to Sloane Stephens, she produced a bizarrely listless performance.
Her coach and confidant Patrick Mouratoglou suggested recently that Williams struggles most when she’s emotionally fatigued – “if she’s very tired mentally, then she’s vulnerable,” he told The New York Times. Success breeds its own fatigue; if you’re reaching the final each tournament, you need rest. But Williams has managed her schedule incredibly well over the past few years. Where earlier in her career, there were ups and downs, now there is consistency. Nothing is left to chance
While winning a second French Open title, 11 years after her first, was an immensely satisfying experience, missing out at Wimbledon will take the gloss off when Williams looks back on 2013. So rather than single out one year, perhaps it’s better to think of this as the best period of Williams’ career.
Since losing to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open in 2012, Williams has gone 109-5. In that 15 months, she has won four Grand Slams, singles and doubles Olympic gold, two WTA Championships crowns and another 11 titles. That’s the kind of dominance only matched by Navratilova, who over three years from 1982 to 1984 won 251 of her 257 matches and Graf, who won 233 of her 240 matches from 1986 to 1988.
Mouratoglou believes Williams can improve, which is a frightening thought for her rivals, each of whom admitted that they are fighting it out for second-best, a distance behind the 32-year-old. There is already talk of Williams doing the calendar-year Grand Slam of all four Grand Slam titles, something only achieved in the Open Era by Graf (1988) and Margaret Court (1970). Now that would be her best year.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all