Serena Williams won the WTA Championships to complete her most successful tennis season as Roger Federer’s quest for a record-tying 12th straight berth at the ATP World Tour Finals was prolonged by defeat in his hometown tournament.
Top-ranked Williams fought back to beat Li Na of China 2-6 6-3, 6-0 in Istanbul yesterday and claim her 11th title of 2013, surpassing her previous best of eight in 2002. The 32-year-old American is the first player since Switzerland’s Martina Hingis in 1997 to win 11 or more tournaments in a single season.
The victory also lifted Williams’s prize money for the year to $12.3 million, smashing Victoria Azarenka’s previous single-season record of $7.9 million in 2012. Her career prize money now stands at $53.8 million, a record for a female athlete.
“I don’t know how I got through that one,” Williams said after beating Li to win her fourth WTA Championships. “I’ve just had a really long year, and I’m just really excited. I really didn’t expect to get through this match. It’s really awesome. It’s such a special moment.”
Williams, who made $12 million in endorsements from June 2012 to June 2013 according to Forbes magazine’s annual rankings, is the first player to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007. The world No. 1 produced 30 winners, including six aces. Li, who will move up to No. 3 in the WTA rankings, had 27 winners and one ace.
Williams finishes the year with a 78-4 record. Her 2013 victories include the French and U.S. Opens, which took her tally of Grand Slam singles championships to 17, sixth on the all-time list. Two major titles next year would take her above Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Margaret Court holds the record with 24 Grand Slam singles championships.
Federer, who’s won a men’s record 17 major singles titles, lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Swiss Indoors tournament for the second straight year. Del Potro of Argentina won 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-4.
A sixth tournament victory in Basel would have sealed Federer’s place at the season-ending event for the top eight men’s players, held in London Nov. 4 to 11.
Federer, 32, must beat Kevin Anderson or Mikhail Youzhny in his second-round match at this week’s Paris Masters to tie Ivan Lendl for the most consecutive appearances at the season finale. Del Potro has already qualified for the Tour Finals.
“I don’t take that much confidence from losing matches,” Federer said in comments on the ATP’s website. “I’m happy about the level of play, that it’s getting better, but it’s not in losses where I find my confidence, it’s in wins.”
Youzhny upset top-seeded David Ferrer of Spain 6-3, 7-5 to win the Valencia Open yesterday. It was the 31-year-old Russian’s second ATP title of the season and the 10th of his career.