After a long 2013 season, the year-end WTA Championships in Istanbul proved once again that Serena Williams is the best female tennis player in the world.
The American swept through her competition in the round-robin stage before squeaking her way past Li Na in the finals, giving her an incredible 11 titles on the year. This is the second straight title for Williams at the year-end championships and her fourth overall.
Li had an impressive performance in the tournament as well, posting convincing wins over Victoria Azarenka, Sara Errani and Petra Kvitova to reach the finals.
There were plenty of exciting moments in this battle of the best female players in the world. Read along to view a daily recap of the entire event from beginning to end.
Each player was drawn into one of two groups, which will be played in a round robin. You can view the full draw here, courtesy of the tournament's official site.
1. Serena Williams
3. Agnieszka Radwanska
5. Petra Kvitova
8. Angelique Kerber
2. Victoria Azarenka
4. Li Na
6. Sara Errani
7. Jelena Jankovic
You can view the daily order of play at WTAChampionships.com.
Day 1 Scores
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka def. No. 6 Sara Errani; 7-6(4), 6-2
No. 1 Serena Williams def. No. 8 Angelique Kerber; 6-3, 6-1
No. 5 Petra Kvitova def. No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska; 6-4, 6-4
The top three seeds were all in action on the first day of the WTA Championships, but one of them already suffered a loss.
No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska struggled with her returns against No. 5 Petra Kvitova, especially when it counted most. Radwanska only won one break point out of eight chances in the match, which ended up costing her both sets.
Kvitova won 66 percent of her service points and put herself in solid position in the red group with the win.
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka also had some trouble early with six double faults in the first set. However, she survived to win in a tiebreak and then looked much more comfortable in the second set to earn the victory.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Serena Williams cruised to victory in her opening match thanks to an 88 percent success rate on first serves. She only dropped four games to No. 8 Angelique Kerber and remains the favorite to win the entire tournament. This dominant performance is just the latest evidence of that.
Day 2 Scores
No. 4 Li Na def. No. 6 Sara Errani; 6-3, 7-6(5)
No. 7 Jelena Jankovic def. No. 2 Victoria Azarenka; 6-4, 6-3
No. 1 Serena Williams def. No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska; 6-2, 6-4
After having a bye on the first day, No. 7 Jelena Jankovic made a big move toward contending in this tournament with an upset win over No. 2 Victoria Azarenka.
Jankovic had her opponent under pressure throughout the match, getting a total of 17 break opportunities. While Azarenka saved 13 of them, this still was not enough to stay alive in the match.
Poor serving has been a problem for the No. 2 seed in this tournament so far with 15 double faults in two matches. She will have to get back on track in order to contend for a title.
Meanwhile, No. 6 Sara Errani is in even more trouble with her second loss in as many days. This time it was to No. 4 Li Na, who remains a top competitor to go deep at this event. Errani, though, will need a win and a lot of help in the final days of the round robin in order to advance.
No. 1 Serena Williams had no such problem against No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, winning in straight sets despite getting only 56 percent of her first serves in play.
While this does not officially clinch a spot in the semifinals, the American is in great shape to move on to the knockout stage of this prestigious tournament.
Day 3 Scores
No. 8 Angelique Kerber defeated No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-2.
No. 4 Li Na defeated No. 7 Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
No. 1 Serena Williams defeated No. 5 Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 6-3.
The round-robin tournament style of the 2013 WTA Championships is one of the best in the sport, and it provided plenty of interesting matchups Thursday.
With the top players on Earth not having the chance to find a rhythm against such stiff competition, an once again became a main focus. After losing to Williams before, No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska was defeated by No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-2, 6-2.
Add in Li Na once again taking a hard-fought victory (beat Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3), and this field is proving to be unpredictable.
Thursday’s least shocking moment came when No. 1 seed Serena Williams dominated No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 6-3, to close out the action. If Day 4 is anything like the first three, tennis fans won’t want to miss a second of the action.
Day 4 Scores
No. 5 Petra Kvitova def. No. 8 Angelique Kerber; 6(3)-7, 6-2, 6-3
No. 4 Li Na def. No. 2 Victoria Azarenka; 6-2, 6-1
No. 6 Sara Errani def. No. 7 Jelena Jankovic; 6-4, 6-4
After four days of action, the semifinals are set for the WTA Championships, and they feature a few surprises.
In the red group, Serena Williams had already booked her spot on Thursday. However, Petra Kvitova joined her after defeating Angelique Kerber in an elimination match on Friday.
After Kerber took control with a narrow victory in Set 1, Kvitova improved her returns in the final two sets. The No. 8 seed only won 48 percent of her service points in the remainder of the match, which is not a good recipe for success.
Meanwhile, Li Na clinched first place in the white group with a surprisingly dominant performance against Victoria Azarenka. The Chinese star won all but three games against the No. 2 player in the world while finishing the match in less than an hour and a half.
This win also clinched a spot in the semifinals for Jelena Jankovic due to previous results, although she still had to face Sara Errani. While Errani won to create a three-way tie for second place, Jankovic advances after winning the most sets.
The semifinals will now feature Williams against Jankovic on one side, with Li facing Kvitova on the other.
Day 5 Scores
No. 4 Li Na defeated No. 5 Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 1 Serena Williams defeated No. 7 Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Tournament favorite and the world’s No. 1 tennis player Serena Williams defeated No. 7 seed Jelena Jankovic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Saturday to advance to the final of the WTA Championships.
Williams did not have her best in this matchup and looked to struggle against the return ability and speed of Jankovic. While the American’s strength once again helped secure the victory, the game plan has been exposed for someone to beat her.
The only roadblock left in the way now is Li Na.
After surprising everyone by dominating this tournament, the No. 4 seed handled No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 6-2, and secured her own place in the final. As the two oldest players in the tournament, it looks like experience is the biggest factor in the round-robin tournaments.
According to the AP via USA Today, Williams looked to be hobbled during her match against Jankovic. If the American star is less than 100 percent, tennis fans should expect Na to drag this match out and beat her over the course of three sets.
With two of the best in the world going head-to-head, this is going to be an exciting final.
Day 6 Scores
No. 1 Serena Williams def. No. 4 Li Na; 2-6, 6-3, 6-0
Serena Williams capped off another incredible year with her fourth career title at the WTA Championships. She also won the event last season as well as in 2009 and 2001.
Williams did not drop a set in the round robin, but then struggled a bit in the knockout stage. After escaping with a three-set victory against Jelena Jankovic, she was forced to do the same against Li Na in the finals.
Li was sloppy in the first set with four double faults while only getting 30 percent of her first serves in play. However, she still performed well enough to avoid facing a single break point while winning the opening set 6-2.
Unfortunately for the Chinese star, Williams turned it on from there and won all but three games for the rest of the match. In the final set, the American won 65 percent of the total points.
This gives Williams 11 titles this season, which equals the most in her illustrious career.
Meanwhile, Li should be proud of an impressive run to the finals in a star-studded field, proving that she is truly one of the best in the sport.