At the Net: Serena finished on top, again

Philadelphia, PA ( – The 2014 women’s tennis season ended
with Serena Williams atop the rankings for a second straight year and for the
fourth time overall in her Hall-of-Fame career.

It took Serena all the way until September to finally capture her 18th career
Grand Slam singles title, which she did by beating her dear friend, Caroline
Wozniacki, in the U.S. Open final. The win also gave the American great a
third straight and sixth overall U.S. Open title (and she’s played in the last
four finals in New York).

Only Steffi Graf (22) has more Grand Slam singles titles than Serena in the
Open Era. Serena is currently tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on
the all-time Open-era list. The great Margaret Court holds the all-time record
with 24 major singles titles, but 13 of ’em came prior to the Open Era (1968).
And the late Helen Wills Moody compiled 19 Grand Slam singles titles, all pre-
Open Era.

The Grand Slam season didn’t start so well for one of the all-time greats,
as Serena was a fourth-round loser at the Australian Open, a stunning second-
round victim at the French Open (where she was the reigning champ), and a
third-round loser at Wimbledon, where the five-time Big W winner somehow
failed to reach the quarters at the All England Club for a second straight

Serena ultimately crossed the finish line with a robust 52-8 match record in
’14 and went an unstoppable 7-0 in finals on her way to earning a whopping
$9.3 million. Her career prize money is a women’s-record $63.5 million.

She capped her year by winning a third straight and fifth overall championship
at the exclusive, season-ending WTA Finals.

Is there any doubt about who’s still No. 1 on the women’s side?

No. 2 among the women is Maria Sharapova, who became a two-time French Open
titlist to give herself five career Grand Slam singles championships.

The well-to-do Russian went 49-13 this year, including a perfect 4-0 mark in
finals. All that success produced $5.8 million in prize money and landed
Maria in the Top 5 for a fourth straight year and the eighth time in her
outstanding career.

Unfortunately for Sharapova, she went 0-2 against Serena, who has beaten the
tall Russian now 15 straight times, dating back to 2005. The veteran American
slugger is a laughable 16-2 lifetime against Maria, who hasn’t prevailed in
their head-to-head series since winning the final at the 2004 Tour
Championships, or 10 long years ago.

Simona Halep finished the year ranked third and became the highest-ever-ranked
Romanian woman when she reached No. 2 in the world in August.

She wound up with a solid 46-16 record, including two wins in five finals, and
the 23-year-old Romanian star reached her first-ever Grand Slam final, where
she lost to Sharapova in Paris. She also appeared in the WTA Finals for the
first time where she soared all the way to the final before losing to the
formidable Serena.

And with $4.5 million in prize money, only Serena, Sharapova and Petra Kvitova
earned more than Halep in 2014.

Note: Despite climbing as high as No. 2 in the world and reaching French Open
and WTA Finals finals, Halep decided to part ways with coach Wim Fissette
after only one season.

One of the hottest players down the stretch was the left-handed Czech star

PK came in with a 43-16 record, including three wins in four finals. She
nailed down a second Wimbledon title in four years and led the Czech Republic
to some more Fed Cup glory with a third championship in four years in that

Kvitova’s impressive play led to prize earnings of more than $5 million and
landed her at a year-end No. 4 spot, her second career finish inside the Top
5, as she continued to establish herself as the best lefty in the women’s

The Top 5 was rounded out by a resurgent star, former world No. 1 Ana

AI finished last year at No. 16 in the world and many felt that her best
tennis was behind her. But no one told the capable Serbian star.

Ivanovic led the WTA with 58 match wins this past season (58-17) and piled up
four titles while reaching six finals. Only Serena captured more titles and
appeared in more finals than Ivanovic among the ladies.

Ivanovic earned $2.3 million in prize money and has many tennis experts
believing that perhaps her best tennis is now ahead of her. The only thing
missing from the former French Open champion’s resume this year was a trip
into a major final, as there were eight different Grand Slam finalists in
2014, none of whom were Ivanovic.

Canada finally has a legitimate tennis star, in the form of Genie Bouchard.

The feisty 20-year-old landed inside the Top 10 for the first time in her
young career after reaching at least the semifinals at three of the four
majors in 2014. She sailed into her first-ever Grand Slam final at Wimbledon,
where, unfortunately, she was crushed by Kvitova.

Bouchard came in at No. 7 after going 45-23 and reaching three finals,
including her first-ever WTA title in Nuremberg, Germany. All that winning
resulted in more than $3 million in prize money.

Ivanovic wasn’t the only resurgent former world No. 1 this year.

The aforementioned Wozniacki was unceremoniously dumped by then-fiance Rory
McIlroy, but promptly healed her wounds by catching fire on the women’s

“The Woz” piled up 49 match wins (49-19), which tied her for third-most on
tour with Sharapova, and made a return trip to the U.S. Open final for the
first time in five years (lost to Serena this time around).

The Danish star finished at No. 8 in the world, following back-to-back No. 10
placements in 2012 and last year. She reached three finals, including a title
in Istanbul, cleared $3.37 in prize money, and looks like a major contender to
me for the foreseeable future.

Off the court, Wozniacki recently ran in the New York Marathon and turned in a
more-than-respectable time, good enough to qualify her for the 2105 Boston
Marathon (where she will not run).

The women’s Top 10 was rounded out by diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.
She went 33-24 this year, including a 1-2 record in three finals, and earned
just under $2 million, thanks mostly to that surprise berth in January’s
Aussie Open final.

Was landing in that Grand Slam final a fluke? Perhaps. But DC is still 10th in
the world and has placed inside the world’s Top 25 four years in a row and
five times now in her career.

How ’bout that Ekaterina Makarova? The southpaw quietly finished the year at
No. 11 in the world after reaching at least the quarterfinals in the last two
majors of the year, including a nice run into the semis at the U.S. Open.

Makarova was 41-21, including a title in Pattaya City, en route to $2.34
million in prize money.

On the disappointing front, former world No. 1 star Victoria Azarenka opened
the year at No. 2 in the world, only to finish all the way down at No. 31.


Vika opened her year by reaching a final in Brisbane (lost to Serena), but
then suffered a quarterfinal upset at the hands of former Wimbledon runner-up
Agnieszka Radwanska at the Aussie (where she was the reigning two-time champ),
and then suffered a foot injury that landed her on the sidelines for three

The then-defending two-time U.S. Open runner-up never quite relocated her game
when she returned, on her way to a 15-9 record and less than $1 million in

Having said all that, I expect Azarenka to come back with a vengeance in 2015.

In some sad-ish tennis news, Asian tennis trailblazer Li Na called it a career
in September. The 32-year-old Chinese star had enough of battling injuries,
specifically knee problems for the better part of her inspiring career.

The former world No. 2 was 28-7 for the year when she announced her retirement
and had performed in three finals, including winning her second career Grand
Slam title at the Aussie Open. She also titled in Shenzhen in her native China
and had already pocketed $3.4 million for the year when she decided to ride
off into the sunset.

FYI: Sharapova, Li and Serena all graced Forbes Magazine’s list of the
highest-paid athletes in 2014.

And here’s to hoping that some actual rivalries will develop on the WTA in the
near future.

Happy Tennis!