Williams caps stellar comeback in Istanbul

Williams caps stellar comeback in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Williams caps stellar comeback in Istanbul

American tennis superstar Serena Williams salutes the crowd at the Sinan Erdem Dome after her victory over Maria Sharapova in the WTA Championships final. Williams said that Istanbul has been good to her and praised the fans. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Recent years have shown that Istanbul loves a good comeback. During the WTA Championship final, Serena Williams never let rival Maria Sharapova get back in the game, in a match that capped the American’s comeback year.

Unlike other famous comeback victories in Istanbul such as Liverpool’s and Olympiacos’ triumphs in the 2005 UEFA Champions League and 2012 Euroleague Final Four, this comeback did not happen during the course of the match. The straight-set victory on Oct. 28 capped an illustrious year for Williams, in which she won two Grand Slam events, one Olympic gold medal and finally the year-end tournament. A perfect comeback for a player who had fallen to as low as 175th in the WTA rankings the summer of 2011 as she coped with injuries, illnesses and personal problems.

Last week, Chinese player Li Na said, “When [Williams] is at her 100 percent, it is impossible to beat her.” Obviously she was right. During the press conference after beating Sharapova without even letting the Russian come close, this Daily News writer had the chance to ask the champion herself if she really felt invincible.

“I think it’s a true statement, without trying to sound full of myself or anything,” she said. “I always said that if I’m playing well and I’m doing everything right, it’s really difficult to beat me. I still believe that.”

Simply the best

Since an early defeat at the French Open, Williams lost just one match, a stunning feat made all the more dazzling with the fact that she dropped only four sets. None of them happened in Istanbul. During the six-day tournament in the Turkish city, Williams proved she truly is the most powerful player in the women’s game, storming through all her opponents at the Sinan Erdem Dome.

The final match, which attracted 16,410 fans, up from last year’s 13,676, was the icing on the cake. Serena said Istanbul had been so good to her.

“The Turkish fans here are so amazing, so nice and so supportive,” Serena said. “I’ve never seen so many signs in support of me.”

Turkish fans showed their love of tennis for the second straight year and they proved they love their stars as well. Last year’s WTA Championships were a success, but even though many Istanbul residents left the city for Eid al-Adha, this year had extra glitter thanks to the star power of the competitors. Sharapova and Serena’s battle for the title was a beautiful event, living up to the expectations fueled for the final.

However, in the end, Serena showed who is the boss.

She ended the year with a 58-4 record and won seven titles, however she finished the year in third place behind Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova. While Serena did not compete at two WTA mandatory events at Indian Wells and Beijing and she had played 20 less games than Azarenka, having beaten Azarenka five times and Sharapova three times this year, Williams’ year-end placement raised questions about the WTA ranking system.

“It’s surprising to win two grand slams, the Olympics, Madrid and the Championships and to be number three,” said Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou. “If there is a bug somewhere, someone has to find it.”
Even if she is not there, Serena convinced us that she may sustain this form, and there is little doubt that she will take over the top spot again sometime next year. The 2013 season will also see Williams, with 15 Grand Slam titles, try to catch up with tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who have both won 18 majors. Trying to repeat her 2002 feat of holding all Grand Slam titles with possible victories at the Australian Open and French Open will also be in the cards.

Istanbul will host the eight best players in the game at the end of the season for the third and final time.

That is enough of a reason to keep waiting for the WTA Championships’ 2013 edition.