Istanbul - Serena Williams successfully defended her WTA Championships title on
Sunday, beating Li Na, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, to finish 2013 with a 78th victory
and 11th title of the year.
The 32-year-old world number one from
the US had admitted to feeling physically exhausted before, during and
after a fraught semi-final with Jelena Jankovic on Saturday and at 3-3
in the second set on Sunday, she looked in danger of a surprise defeat.
"But I had to keep going, I hung in there, and it's amazing to win this," said Williams.
finished the year with prize money of $12,385,572, shattering the
all-time women's record set last year by Victoria Azarenka, who won
It's also the third-highest single season prize money
total in tennis history, men's and women's -- only Novak Djokovic's
2011 and 2012 totals are higher.
"I've just had a really long
year, and I'm just really excited, honestly. I really didn't expect to
get through this match today.
"I can't believe I won. I was so tired. Honestly, did I really win? Because she played so well."
There were plenty of other impressive numbers for Williams.
She is the fourth player ever to win four or more titles at the event and the oldest champion.
Williams is also the first player to win 11 WTA titles in a season since 1997 when Martina Hingis won 12.
She has now also won 32 of her last 34 matches against top five players.
"I'm just overjoyed, to be honest," Williams told www.wtatour.com.
really awesome. It's such a special moment. To finish the year No.1 in
the world and win this title after 40 years of the WTA, it means even
Li, the first Chinese player to make the final of the end
of season showpiece and about to become the highest-ranked Asian woman
at number three in the world, made one break of serve for 2-1 in the
first set with a wrong-footing backhand drive, and another for 4-1 by
punishing a moderate Williams serve.
The world number one looked
subdued and shackled. The emotional eruptions of her semi-final with
Jankovic were nowhere to be seen or heard and her movement was leaden.
she was forced to contain or defend, and in the first set she managed a
mere five winners -- a paltry total for her. Li managed twice as many.
Expectations were turned on their head.
Williams held on to her serve in the seventh game but the set was effectively gone.
second set started with a mighty battle, which resulted in Williams
hanging on to her serve after almost 12 minutes of effort and eight
deuces. It was a big moment.
Next game she broke Li's serve,
extracting a volleying error on break point, and advanced to 3-1, and
the mood of the match began to shift.
Although Li got back to 3-3
with some impressively positive driving, her serve was becoming more
variable, and a double fault contributed to a lost service game which
put her at 3-5.
By now Williams' survival instincts were engaged intently.
closed out the set after another service game of several deuces, and
when Li delivered her eighth double fault to lose the opening game of
the final set the tide completely turned.
Li double faulted again to go 0-3 down and an encouraged Williams, with the finishing line closer, was hitting the ball better.
After the last shot she placed her forehead on the court as if in thanksgiving for redemption.
triumph may persuade Williams that adding to her 17 Grand Slam titles
during 2014 is certainly possible, and that winning another five, to
overhaul Steffi Graf, might eventually come within reach too.
But her weariness might suggest another message. Eighty matches may in future be an ambition too far.
Li said she took positives from her loss.
was feeling maybe the start of the match was too exciting. So after one
and a half sets I was feeling I had no more energy left," said the
"I have a little bit of a bad taste because of it (the final set was love), but I still feel positive about the whole thing."