that’s a wrap! …The 2012 WTA Season in Review

WTA Championships: (4) Serena Williams d. (3) Maria Sharapova 64 63  

Tournament of Champions: (2) Nadia Petrova d. (1) Caroline Wozniacki 61 62

A week after Serena Williams thumped the field at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Nadia Petrova’s victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the finals of the Pironkova Invitational WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, and the Czech Republic’s 3-1 victory over Serbia in the Fed Cup final, officially closed the book on the 2012 WTA season. Let’s take a look back at this season’s most memorable and/or cringeworthy moments. For the record, the two are not mutually exclusive.

To quote Anabel Medina Garrigues, “Hola Mr. Foo.” Remember when we thought he was just a phase?

There was dancing.

Also, candy.

Okay, there was *lots* of dancing.

My vote for WTA Newcomer of the Year: Marija Cicak. You dun mess. #fifteenthirt #umpiresarepeopletoo

In all seriousness, this was probably the best season on the WTA since 2009, and here’s why:

Five Things to Take Away from the 2012 WTA Season

1. We’ve got our own big three. While parity has run rampant on the WTA for the better part of the past five seasons, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams dominated the big events in 2012. Azarenka, to her credit, has restored some of the credibility back to the #1 ranking. The 23-year-old Belarusian won her maiden slam at the Australia Open, started the season 26-0 (the best start to a WTA season since Martina Hingis in 1997), picked up five other titles and bagged two medals at the London Olympics. Sharapova completed the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros and went undefeated on red clay in 2012. The Russian suffered only one loss in three-set matches (to Azarenka in the US Open semifinals) and also finished runner-up in Australia, at the Olympics and at the Year-End Championships. Williams had arguably here best season since 2002, taking home the Wimbledon and US Open titles as well as the Olympic gold medal. While Williams amassed an 8-0 record against Azarenka and Sharapova in 2012, the fact that she could not end the season higher than #3 in the world is a testament to the stellar years put together by both Azarenka and Sharapova.

2. The young guns are coming. The WTA has moved away from the 15 and 16 year-old prodigies we were accustomed to seeing in the ’90s and early ’00s. In fact, players have been peaking later in their careers, as evidenced by Li Na, Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone taking home major titles in their late 20s over the past two years. In 2012, however, 13 players in the year-end top 100 are 21 years of age and younger, and six of them are teenagers. Three of them (Kiki Bertens, Bojana Jovanovski & Camila Giorgi) will turn 22 in December. Six of these players took home their first career WTA titles in 2012, (Jovanovski, Bertens, Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, Heather Watson, Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos) while Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Laura Robson have all had their breakthroughs in Grand Slam events. The youngest player in the year-end top 100 in Germany’s Annika Beck (DOB: 02/16/1994), who was the junior Roland Garros champion and a six-time title winner on the ITF Circuit. Keep an eye out for Donna Vekic, who very well could’ve been the seventh teenager on this list. Vekic, at the tender age of 16, reached her first career WTA final in Tashkent in 2012 (l. to Begu).

3. You can’t keep a good woman down. There were several feel-good, comeback stories on the WTA this season. Yaroslava Shvedova started the year ranked No. 208, and finished 2012 ranked No. 25; Shvedova’s career has long been frought with injuries, and she had previously made the quarterfinals of Roland Garros in 2010. Along the way, Shvedova reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros (again) and came the closest of the field to defeating Serena at Wimbledon. Oh, and of course, there was that little history-making matter of the Golden Set. In upsetting Errani at Wimbledon, Shvedova won all 24 points of her first set bagel; she was only the second player in the history of tennis to do so. LIKE EVER. Alisa Kleybanova returned to the WTA cancer-free. The Russian returned to the court at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami after a 10-month battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although her return was brief, as she did not play another event in 2012 to focus on getting back into competing shape, she defeated Johanna Larsson before falling to Maria Kirilenko in the second round. Kleybanova has made a full return in 2013 her priority. Of course, let’s not forget Venus Williams, who continues to inspire and amaze us all. Venus won her first WTA title in two and a half years with a win in her final event of 2012 in Luxembourg; her 44th career title was her first since being diagnosed with  Sjögren’s syndrome.

4. [cliché]Hard work pays off[/cliché]. It’s hard not to respect what Sara Errani and Angelique Kerber have achieved this year. Both ended the year in the top 10 as the highest ranked players from their nations and made their debuts at the WTA Championships; Kerber ended the year at No. 5 while Errani ended one spot behind her at No. 6. Errani reached the Roland Garros final, the semifinals at the US Open and the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, while taking home six titles. Kerber won her  first two WTA titles in 2012 and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. If we’re going to talk about hard work, we also have to show some love to Roberta Vinci, who reached her career high ranking in singles (at age 29) this season and reached her first grand slam quarterfinal in singles at the US Open. She and Errani took home two grand slam titles in doubles and ended the year as the #1 team in the world.

5. Crossroads and questions. Many of the WTA’s household names face serious questions about their futures heading into next season. Russian team stalwarts Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva struggled the majority of the season with injuries after taking home the doubles title at the Australian Open; Kuznetsova ended the season No. 72 and Zvonareva fell to No. 95. Italian veterans Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta are also question marks heading into next year; Pennetta, who missed out on all action after the Olympics due to wrist surgery, has already announced she will continue to play in 2013. Schiavone, 32, finished the year at her lowest year-end ranking since 2002. Schiavone’s year was one to forget, as she did not win back-to-back matches after Wimbledon. Caroline Wozniacki finished 2012 at No. 10 with two titles to her name, a far cry from the six titles she bagged in 2012 and her year-end #1 ranking. Despite showing some better form post-US Open, Wozniacki has some decisions to make. Coaching partnerships with Ricardo Sanchez and Thomas Johansson were colossal failures in 2012, and each time, she returned back to father Piotr as coach. Piotr Wozniacki proclaimed that they would ‘return to basics’ to bring Wozniacki back to form. Azarenka and Radwanska, Wozniacki’s closest rivals in age, made substantial improvements in 2012, Wozniacki stalled and even regressed.  Jelena Jankovic was reduced to tears in the Fed Cup trophy ceremony, having went 0-2 in her singles matches in the Fed Cup final, winning a combined seven games. Jankovic spoke to Serbian press following the tie, stating she has plans to retire from Fed Cup participation next season. Is it the beginning of the end for Jankovic? Only time will tell.

So that’s it! 2012’s been fun, and I’ll bet 2013 will be even better.

Have a good offseason ladies, you’ve earned it.

Actually wait. See you in less than two months.

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