By Maud Watson
Player of the Year
It’s not official – yet – but you can bet that with her win in Istanbul, Serena Williams should, and likely will, be named the WTA’s Player of the Year. She continued her dominant form from the summer to sweep through the WTA Championships without the loss of a set to claim her seventh title of the year. She’s come a long way since that inexplicable loss she suffered in the opening round of Roland Garros back in May, which in hindsight may have been the greatest thing to have happened to her. She seemed to find new motivation, and it translated into her play. Serena lost only one match the rest of the year as she picked up two majors and Olympic Singles and Doubles Gold to complete her most dominant season in a decade. She finishes the year ranked No. 3, but barring a surprise injury, she rightfully should be considered the player to beat come Melbourne in 2013.
Serena Williams wasn’t the only player to have a good week in Turkey. Victoria Azarenka saved match points against Angelique Kerber and fought back for a straight-sets victory over Li Na in round robin play to lock in the year-end No. 1 ranking. It was a well-deserved honor for the young Belarusian. She may not have claimed as many of the big titles as Williams, but she showed up for the sport’s biggest events with greater frequency and consistently posted better results week-in and week-out. That consistency was thanks in large part not only to the further developments she made in her game, but also her improved mental toughness. She looks likely to continue this trend into 2013, and if she can beef up that serve, expect her to solidify her position as Serena’s main challenger.
Back on Top
Despite losing his opening round match in the French capital – a result that came from a combination of concern for his father’s health issues and the inspired play from Sam Querrey – Novak Djokovic knows he will finish 2012 as the World No. 1. Djokovic was assured of becoming the first man since Federer in 2006/07 to finish consecutive years as No. 1 when the Swiss opted not to defend his Paris Masters crown. It’s a great and welcomed achievement for the Serb, who suffered disappointment earlier this year when he came up short at both Roland Garros and the Olympics. And don’t be fooled into thinking the ATP World Tour Finals in London next week will be any less exciting just because the race to No. 1 is done. Djokovic, along with Federer and Murray, will be fighting for bragging rights and the opportunity to gain a mental edge going into 2013, while others – perhaps a Berdych or del Potro – will look to crash the party in an attempt to begin wrestling away tennis’ biggest prizes from the Big Four. It’s going to be scintillating stuff!
Three years ago, Juan Martin del Potro was being touted as the next big thing in tennis. The reason for the hype was that up until Murray this past summer in New York, he’d been the only player who’d managed to claim a major singles title in the era of Federer-Nadal-Djokovic domination. But since coming back from injury, he’s never looked quite like that big-hitting Argentine that won the 2009 US Open. That is, he didn’t until this past Sunday when he not only defeated Roger Federer, but he did so in the Maestro’s hometown event. It was a spectacular match by both players, but what was particularly impressive from del Potro was that after losing the second set in a tiebreak, he held his nerve to earn the victory in a tiebreak third set. This is the type of win that the Argentine had been missing since his comeback, which is what made his title in Basel such a breakthrough. He’s now looking once again like a guy who believes he can hang with the game’s best and grab his fair share of titles.
Another One Bites the Dust
It seems Caroline Wozniacki has opted to get rid of yet another coach, as it was announced earlier this week that she would no longer be working the Thomas Johansson. Caroline and her father opted not to renew his contract, which had expired at the end of the US Open. Going forward, Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, will continue to be her coach. For those who see her potential, it’s frustrating to see how this has all unfolded. The whole reason she initially started looking for a new coach was that everyone had come to the consensus that her father had taken her as far as he could. Now, just because things aren’t clicking right away, she’s ready to throw in the towel and revert back to her comfort zone. The problem is, recent results have shown that comfort zone is no longer good enough. The rest of the field has figured out her game and how to beat her. I hope I’m wrong. I hope many of the other pundits are wrong. She’s too talented not to accomplish more in this sport. But it’s hard to see her breaking through at a major without a more experienced tennis coach or former pro at her side.