Serena Williams, U.S. Open 2012
Will 2013 be the greatest season in Serena Williams' career?
There are so many highlights, memorable moments and indeed great seasons that Williams has put behind her—and the current season is no exception. Especially if she wins the U.S. Open beginning August 26. There is room for argument about whether it is truly her finest campaign. Her 2002 tour was very successful, with tremendous highlights, especially at the Grand Slams.
One caveat, however. This is all about the season as a whole. A year is bigger than one win or loss.
When it comes to such a divisive figure like Williams, it is best to approach such a question objectively. Eliminating everything but cold, hard factual results on the court is the only way to compare her work. To that end, there are eight key points that contribute to a top professional's season:
- WTA ranking
- Number of singles titles won
- Number of doubles titles won
- Win/loss percentage
- Australian Open result
- French Open result
- Wimbledon result
- U.S. Open result
For the purpose of this comparison, the assumption is being made that Serena actually does win the U.S. Open in 2013. Therefore, her stats for the year will include seven match wins in New York, adding to the win/loss percentage for the year and the number of singles titles.
With those results, 2013 will be her greatest season.
Serena Williams looks for the top, alongside sister Venus
Comparing ranking is simple. In 2002, Serena Williams finished the year ranked No. 1, a feat she has only accomplished one other time (2009). Thus far in 2013, she is also the top player.
A dead heat, then.
Perhaps doubles ranking could be called in to break the tie. In 2013, Williams is currently ranked No. 108. She finished 2002 ranked No. 25. That is a big difference.
A few more notes of interest regarding her ranking history may be in order, too. When she ascended to the top in 2002 after Wimbledon, she held that position for 57 straight weeks. By contrast, when Williams regained the top spot in February 2013, she was the oldest ever No. 1 female player. Although that is quite the accomplishment, the edge must go to 2002.
Doubles made the difference. The 2002 season is winning 1-0.
Another trophy for Serena Williams' case, Cincinnati 2013
One of the most obvious ways to determine the success of a season as a whole is to look at tournament titles won.
In 2002, Serena Williams won eight times. Assuming she wins the U.S. Open this year, she will have won nine. So the edge for this stat alone, notwithstanding where those titles were won, favors the current season.
Will it be enough to crown this year the best ever in her career?
The score so far is even, 1-1.
Serena and Venus Williams on top again
With many players, this statistic would be a moot point. With Serena Williams, however, who has a reputation for being a premier doubles player, it is important to include when evaluating a season.
This one is easy.
In 2002, she won two titles. This included wins over the top seeds in Leipzig and the second-seeded team at Wimbledon.
In 2013, she has played two tournaments and lost in both of them. In Australia, she and sister Venus Williams exited in the quarterfinals, although they did lose to the top-seeded team. In France, though, they lost their first-round match to Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova, who were ranked No. 103 in the world, although the reason for the loss appeared to be an injury to Venus.
2002 is now winning 2-1.
Serena Williams, winning
Winning is especially good when you are not losing.
It's not that winning isn't everything or the only thing, as Red Saunders once claimed, according to Michael Austin of Psychology Today. Winning is relative to losing.
In both 2002 and up until now in 2013, Serena Williams has lost five matches. However, as of the end of this year's Cincinnati's Western & Southern Open, and assuming she wins in New York, she has 68 wins compared to 57 in 2002. The percentage comparison is 93.2 percent for 2013 to 91.1 for 2002.
The score is even again, 2-2.
Serena Williams questions an unexpected loss, Australia 2013
Beginning with the Grand Slam events, the two seasons really begin to differentiate themselves.
One significant blemish on Serena Williams's 2002 campaign is a Did Not Play (DNP) for the Australian Open. As reported by SportsIllustrated.com, she withdrew just before the tournament with an ankle injury. The injury didn't affect the rest of the year, if one believes the results she posted after that.
This year's expectations were quite high. Williams entered Melbourne as the third seed, but didn't support that. The No. 29 seed Sloane Stephens upset her in the quarterfinals 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. According to John Pye of The Huffington Post, Williams described her injury-plagued event as being her worst ever two weeks.
It would turn out that she was actually speaking about the injuries themselves. So, in 2002, it was an ankle injury. In 2013, it was an ankle, a back and an inspired opponent.
Playing is always better than not playing. Williams did reach the quarterfinals this year and so 2013 is now up 3-2.
Serena Williams loving France, again
Serena Williams loves the French Open. She especially loved it in 2002 and 2013.
Any player hoisting the trophy at Roland Garros would be enjoying herself.
Not much needs to be said about these two results. Williams only lost one set in the most current rendition of Paris, a 3-6 loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova. She also posted three 6-0 sets along the way.
In 2002, she lost two sets. One was 4-6 to Vera Zvonareva, and one was 3-6 to the No. 1 seed Jennifer Capriati. She won two sets at love.
In the end, she won both finals in straight sets. A slight nod must go to the 2013 result.
2013 is still winning, up 4-2.
Forgettable Wimbledon for Serena Williams, 2013
The SportsIllustrated.com headline for July 8, 2002 read, "Suddenly Serena: Younger sister takes Wimbledon title."
Piers Newbury of the BBC covered Serena Williams' 2013 Wimbledon effort with, "Serena Williams beaten by Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon." That loss was in the fourth round. And Lisicki was seeded No. 23.
Any which way it is looked at, the 2002 tournament was a success. 2013 was a disaster.
The 2002 season is edging closer, down 3-4.
Will this be Serena Williams in New York, 2013?
Time for the hypothetical.
Serena Williams wins the 2013 U.S. Open!
It doesn't sound far-fetched at all. It just hasn't happened yet. But if it were to, would it cement the year as her best?
Back in 2002, Serena also won the U.S. Open. In doing so she did not lose a set. She won six sets at 6-1 or 6-0. She defeated the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds en route. It was an exemplary exhibition.
Even if Williams wins this year, it will only match her 2002 triumph. Added to the rest of this year's play, however, it means one thing.
The 2013 season is her very best ever.