By Igor Leshin
The WTA final tennis tournament in Istanbul has drawn a line under another season in women’s tennis, with Ms. Azarenko creating another first in the history of Belarusian sport, retaining her number one seed title for the whole sporting year. Her win over Chinese Li Na in the third match in Istanbul secured her place, regardless of her defeat at the hands of Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals.
Victoria has earned six individual titles this season, giving her a total of 14 to date. However, the quality of her awards has been much higher this year, including her first Grand Slam tournament: the Australian Open — following her defeat of legendary Kim Clijsters of Belgium in the semi-finals and Maria Sharapova in the finals (6:3, 6:0).
Seizing leadership in the world rankings after the Australian Open, Victoria lost out to Sharapova on the clay courts of the French Open. However, Sharapova’s failure at Wimbledon allowed Azarenko to reach the semi-finals and regain her world number one status (despite being beaten by Serena Williams).
Wimbledon was immediately followed by the London Olympics, hosted on the same courts. Unfortunately, Victoria faced Serena once again in the semi-finals, leaving her to be content with bronze.
At the next Grand Slam tournament, hosted by the USA, Victoria again met the younger Williams sister in the finals and her lack of experience in the face of Serena’s brilliant game resulted in her defeat: 6:2, 2:6, 7:5.
By the time of the Istanbul tournament, Victoria needed to win at least two matches to assure her number one position. Angelique Kerber proved a worthy opponent, as did Li Na, although Victoria came out on top. She then lost to Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals — her 79th this year and only her 10th defeat.
Victoria’s court success this year is truly impressive: 26 victories in a row; 38 weeks at the top of the women’s singles rankings; and $7.3m in prize money (more than any other female in one singles season).