By Erik Gudris / Monday, October 28, 2013
The WTA Championships says goodbye to Istanbul after a successful three years. What did we learn after last week's season-ending event that will prepare us for the 2014 season?
Photo Credit: AP
The WTA Championships said a fond, yet bittersweet goodbye to Istanbul after three successful years. Here's what we learned after last week's end-of-season event that will prep us for 2014.
1. Serena Is The Best. But Is She The Greatest?
Serena Williams once again proved that she is the best women's tennis player on the planet. Despite fighting fatigue, Williams battled past Li Na to claim her fourth WTA Championships and 11th title this season.
READ - Serena Wins Fourth WTA Championships in Three-Set Battle
Williams ends the year with a 78-4 record. That's the best individual WTA season winning percentage (.951) since 1990. To put it another way, only three other women in the Open Era lost fewer matches in a single season - Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. Rare air indeed. Williams also earned over $12 million dollars in prize money in 2013 -- the third most collected in one season by any player, man or woman, in history.
Earlier in the week, Williams said she couldn't imagine life without a tennis racquet in her hand and that she has no plans to retire -- either in the near or far future. As Williams continues to chase tennis immortality, her results over the next few years will probably answer the ongoing question if she is indeed the greatest of all time.
2. Li Na Rising
Li Na capped off what she feels is her best season ever with a run to the Istanbul finals. She may not have been able to pull off the ultimate upset against Williams, but her new willingness to serve and volley and an improved mental toughness will make her a formidable foe next year.
Now at a career high No. 3 ranking, Li proved she too just may be getting started in terms of adding titles to her already lengthy career.
3. Azarenka's Aches
Istanbul proved a disappointment for Victoria Azarenka who, along with suffering yet another injury in her final match, also admitted to feeling the pressure of remaining consistent over the last two years.
Azarenka really hasn't been the same player since she took a fall at Wimbledon earlier this summer. Though she scratched her way to the US Open finals, she only won one match the rest of the year, and that was against a limping Sara Errani in Istanbul. While a good rest just may be what Azarenka needs, will it be enough to get her back on track?
4. Marathon Woman
Petra Kvitova was thought to be the only player who could give Williams a real test in Istanbul, considering her success indoors. So much for that idea. But the Czech's run to the semis was a good ending to what had been a turbulent season.
Kvitova's fitness is much improved, even in the last two months. But we'll see if Kvitova can climb higher in the rankings, especially if she continues to endure more three set matches than anyone, a feat that has earned her the unofficial nickname "P3tra."
5. Missing Sharapova?
While it was unfortunate Maria Sharapova couldn't compete in Istanbul due to her shoulder injury, her absence didn't leave a huge void in the draw. Fans may have missed seeing the Russian in action, but it wasn't like her absence presented more opportunity for those players there.
Sharapova is expected to return in January. How she bounces back Down Under could determine if she maintains her top five status next year.
6. The Return of "Glitter"
Jelena Jankovic punctuated her comeback season with a win over Azarenka and and a trip to the Istanbul semis. It was certainly good to see and hear the charismatic Serbian enjoy being back in the spotlight. But will we see "JJ" light up the elite event next year?
7. Back to Back to Back
One of the few things we won't miss about Istanbul was the scheduling. Forcing some players to show up for three straight days just added more wear and tear to their already over-tired bodies. And it probably contributed to some of the one-sided matches we watched mid-week.
When the event moves to Singapore next year, the scheduling will feature a "day on, day off" schedule similar to the ATP Tour Finals. That should help keep the players fresher and hopefully make more matches closer.
8. Doubles Love
While doubles can often be more exciting than singles, it was hard to get engaged with the concurrent doubles event in Istanbul. Hopefully that will change next year in Singapore when eight teams will compete for the coveted title with a doubles match featured on the same day as singles.
READ - Hsieh and Peng Caputre WTA Championships Title
One question for next year to ponder: If Serena and Venus Williams qualify for the event, will Serena do double duty?
9. Advantage: Indoors
For the next five years, the WTA Championships will again be held in an indoor stadium. While some tennis fans enjoy the change in conditions, some players don't care for it at all (see: Agnieszka Radwanska).
The truth remains that some players fare better under the lights than others and that will continue to be a factor in determining future winners of the event.
10. Istanbul's Fans
The WTA is moving on, but we'll have plenty of fond memories from the last three years. Especially due to the super-engaged fans that made Istanbul the perfect end to the season. From near sellout crowds to the handmade signs supporting all the players, Istanbul proved a rousing success for the year-end event.