Women's Tennis: Best Highlights from All Four Grand Slams

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIISeptember 20, 2012

Women's Tennis: Best Highlights from All Four Grand Slams

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    Women’s tennis is always hard to predict at the beginning of the year. If the Williams sisters weren’t in the final four throughout the past decade, then a big surprise was instead, be it Tsvetana Pironkova or Sam Stosur. 

    This year’s champions at the Grand Slams had something to prove and as such, redefined each of their respective careers. 

    From Victoria Azarenka earning her first Grand Slam and surpassing best friend Caroline Wozniacki for the world No. 1 ranking to Serena’s flawless summer, women’s tennis seemed more predictable than in years past.

    Yet we still saw journey women and young Americans alike stealing the spotlight. 

    Let’s revisit the best moments from each of the Grand Slams. 

Kim Clijsters Miraculous Comeback vs. Na Li

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    One of the greatest matches played this year featured a rematch of last year's final. Clijsters rolled her ankle early in the first set, and it looked very unlikely that she would finish the first set, let alone the match. 

    Clijsters continued to battle even after falling behind 6-2, and thus faced four match points in the second set tiebreaker. It was the lob over Na Li on the fourth match point that showed major guts from the five time major champ, and she went on to win the griping tiebreak.  

    After going up four-love in the final set, Clijsters would still have to battle it out, and finally prevailed 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. Clijsters went on to the semifinals, making her last appearance in the final weekend of a Slam.

Victoria Is Victorious

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    Who would have thought at the start of the 2012 season that Victoria Azarenka would get a Grand Slam title before reigning world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki? 

    After powering through defending champ Kim Clijsters in the semifinals, Azarenka fought off early nerves and dispatched Maria Sharapova in her first Grand Slam final.

    With another Grand Slam final in New York, Azarenka took a major step forward in women’s tennis, proving that Australia was no fluke.  

Maria Sharapova’s Career Slam

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    It was only a matter of time until Maria Sharapova won another Slam. 2011 showed real promise for Sharapova since her shoulder surgery in 2008, making the Wimbledon final and French Open semifinal.

    Although she struggled against Victoria Azarenka early in the year—losing to her in Australia and Indian Wells finals—she got her revenge in Stuttgart. 

    With Serena Williams' early loss and Azarenka at the French Open, it was Sharapova’s tournament for the taking. Her only scare came against Klara Zakopalova in the fourth round. 

    With the title, Sharapova proved that she is no longer “a cow on ice” when it comes to her clay court game. She became the 10th women to complete a career Grand Slam. 

Sara Errani's Remarkable Year

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    The feisty player from Italy really had a year to remember with not only a French Open final, but making the final weekend of the U.S. Open as well. 

    As for the doubles circuit, her and partner Roberta Vinci claimed the French and U.S. Open double titles as well as runner-up in Australia. The compatriots were also nicknamed “frenemies” at the US Open, having to face off in the quarterfinals after defeating favorites Angelique Kerber and Agnieska Radwanska with their tricky slices and spins. 

    Hopefully we will still see more of the Italian duo in singles as well as doubles in 2013. 

American Tennis

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    The good news for the future of American tennis is there is real potential on the women's side. Sloane Stephens, Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale all made great progress in Slams, some reaching the second week. 

    Stephens, despite a so-so performance against Ana Ivanovic at the U.S. Open, is strong enough to take her game to the next level. She had some major victories over seeded players that should propel her again next year. 

    Let's just hope there won’t be a sophomore slump a-la Melanie Oudin. 

Sam Stosur's Surprising Defense in New York

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    Besides the French Open, Sam Stosur did not have a memorable Slam season, looking nervous in Australia and at Wimbledon. 

    But all that changed at the U.S. Open, where she was defending champion. She looked dominate in the early rounds, defending her title well, and played the match of the tournament on the women’s side against Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals.

    Both exchanged long and exciting rallies before Azarenka squeaked through in the third set tiebreaker. 

Serena’s Back

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    If there’s one thing we learned this year, it’s that if Serena Williams has something to prove, nothing gets in her way. 

    After a lackluster French Open, where she made her earliest exit in a Grand Slam ever, Serena was nervous at Wimbledon and was tearing up after her first round victory over Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova. It proved how much that win meant for her.

    She grew as the tournament went on, and captured her fifth Wimbledon title, but this was just the beginning. In between Slams, Serena looked scary in the Olympics, not dropping a set while capturing the gold medal.  

    In New York, it was hard not to pick Serena to take the title. Besides a little hiccup in the second and later part of the third set, Serena kept her game face on and made Azarenka beat her. In the end, she couldn’t. 

    Serena now has 15 Grand Slam titles to her name and—at the age of 30—still has no sign of stopping, which should be simply scary to her opponents. 

Farewell to Kim Clijsters (again)

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    Kim Clijsters didn’t have the best ending to her career (this time around). She hurt her ankle in Australia, pulled out of Indian Wells, and then the entire clay court season. 

    Wimbledon and the Olympics were better for Clijsters, but with a decent draw at the U.S. Open, Clijsters had hoped to do well at her best Grand Slam. She came up short against up-and-comer Laura Robson, who played a better match that day, and officially retired after losing in the second round in mixed doubles with partner Bob Bryan. 

    Clijsters is a fan favorite and one of the nicest players on tour and will be missed in the WTA—along with her on-the-run forehand splits.