When Serena Williams held the trophy aloft at the end of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships after defeating Li Na 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 it marked the end of what was a very long, albeit prosperous year for the world No.1.
She played 15 tournaments which in the overall grand scheme of things is not an overload but it is when you are Serena Williams and you are either winning the titles or going so deep into an event that it does take a physical and mental toll. You are playing an incredible amount of matches. She played 82 matches in 2013 and she won a staggering 78 of them. Her percentage of .951 is the best in women’s tennis since 1989 when Stephanie Graf scored .977.
It was her eleventh title of the year and she is the first woman since Martina Hingis in 1997 to win as many crowns in a single season.
This was the fourth time she had won the season-ending tournament and the second year in a row she has claimed it. She is only the fourth player to win the event four or more times and she is in good company, the others are Martina Navratilova, Graf and Chris Evert. The stats keep coming because it was her 57th career title – its daylight between her and the next active player for career titles – Serena is 13 ahead.
She is the oldest player, at 32, to win the event which began in 1972 and her streak of 15 consecutive match wins at the season-ended is only bettered by Navratilova with 21between 1983 and 1987.
The winner’s cheque was $2million which made her the first woman to pass $12million in prize money in a single year. An incredible achievement not just for her but for women’s tennis celebrating its 40th anniversary with people like Billie-Jean King and company who spear-headed the game, and befitting the one-time slogan that was used: “You’ve come a long way baby!”
“I knew that obviously this is a great big prize at the end of the year to win, and, you know, it's just, again, what these pioneers have done for us,” said Serena. “They ended up playing for the picture where they held a dollar, and, you know, you win tournaments for over $2 million, so it's just, yeah, it's amazing.
“I just feel honoured and blessed to have an opportunity to benefit such courageous women.”
So having said all that is it any surprise that she is feeling tired? I think not.
“I have no vacation plans thus far, so I look forward to some time off,” said Serena. “I definitely won't be hanging out with my buddy Wilson (for the uninitiated, her tennis racquet) for a while. We need some time apart, even though I love him.”
As the northern hemisphere starts heading into winter it was put to her if she would consider a holiday in the snow.
“I did that once and I will never do it. No, I'm a total bikini girl. I can't even breathe in high altitude,” she said. “Oh, I don't ski. My insurance doesn't cover skiing accidents. So, you know, I don't ski at all, I don't like the cold. I'm from California and I live in Florida, and me and snow, we do not get along. We are just like - I can't stand cold weather. Yeah, more or less sun, beach, boats. That's me.”
But time flies fast and that off-season period for her will be over before she knows it and all focus will be in 2014 and the Australian Open, one of the rare events she did not perform well at in 2013.
“It's never too far away, and there are 127 other people that have the same thought that I have …. (hoping) to be the one standing up in the end, and it's for sure my next goal. Seeing that I didn't do as well as I want to there, actually the past few years, so my goal is just to go a year in Australia without twisting an ankle. That's what I'm going to start with.”
She says there is planet of room for improvement, as she put it “a multitude of things” but would not enter into any discussions about specifics. That would have to be nerve wracking for the other girls to hear, especially after the year she has just had.
So, could she go the entire season without a loss?
“No. No, I don't think - not for me. Maybe for someone else, but not for me,” said Serena.