Every time Serena Williams enters a tournament, she's the favorite to win. When she doesn't, it's considered a major failure.
However, Williams was as big a winner as she was a loser at the 2014 Australian Open.
Although she failed to win her 18th Grand Slam title and sixth Australian Open, Williams actually increased her points lead in the WTA rankings. She currently sits at 13,000 points and now leads No. 2 Victoria Azarenka by nearly 6,500 points.
Williams lost points at the Australian Open because she went out in the fourth round, one round earlier than she did last year. Azarenka, who won last year, was an even bigger loser. So was Maria Sharapova, who dropped from No. 3 to No. 5.
Of course, Williams' goal is to win Grand Slams. Her huge points advantage—a season's worth—all but guarantees her the No. 1 seed at the French Open and Wimbledon.
What a difference a year makes. Entering the 2013 Australian Open, Azarenka was No. 1. Sharapova and Williams were close behind. A win at the Aussie Open would have made either the new No. 1.
However, Azarenka defended her title. A few weeks later, Williams took over the No. 1 spot in Doha and she's held on to it ever since.
Now she has more points than Azarenka and Sharapova combined. Li Na, ranked No. 3, may provide a bigger threat to Williams than Azarenka or Sharapova. She is riding a wave of momentum and has far fewer points to defend. Li is in excellent position to overtake Azarenka at No. 2.
Meanwhile, Williams has points to defend in Doha and Miami before the clay-court season gets underway. She is on the entry list at Indian Wells for the first time since 2001. She recently hinted at a return to the tournament. According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), she cited a movie about the late Nelson Mandela as inspiration for forgiveness.
If she does play at Indian Wells, it would mean bonus points. She has no points to defend. Sharapova, the defending champ, has to win it all or slip even further behind.
After years of skipping tournaments and falling prey to the WTA points system, Williams is using it to her advantage. Following perhaps the best year in her career, Williams could finish 2014 without a Grand Slam title and retain her No. 1 ranking.
That would make her the biggest winner and loser of 2014.