SINGAPORE -- Serena Williams has clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for a second consecutive year and fourth time overall. No. 2 Maria Sharapova's chance to unseat Serena ended at the WTA Finals on Friday after losing a set to Agnieszka Radwanska in their final round robin match. This marks the first time in Serena's career that she's held the No. 1 ranking for every week of the season. In the White Group, the semifinals are set as Caroline Wozniacki and Radwanska move on and continue their chances at a title.
Sharapova looked well on her way to beating Radwanska in straight sets to keep her chances of qualifying for the semifinals alive. But after building a 7-5, 5-1 lead Sharapova lost five straight games, failing to serve out the match twice and squandering three match points. She lost the second set in a tiebreaker but rebounded to finish her tournament with a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2 win. Radwanska thought the match -- and her season -- were all but over when she found herself down in the scoreline. That's when she began to play her best tennis of the day.
"In that kind of place you pretty much know that it's over, so I think I was more relaxed," Radwanska said. "I think she [got] tight a little bit. And then I think it was easier for me to play. I think [I felt] not so many nerves like in the beginning of the match."
Sharapova blamed her own impatience. She should have been able to break Radwanska at will but couldn't impose herself on the returns late as the pressure grew late in the second set. "[Radwanska's 115 kph serves] are just serves I should be able to punish and get easier points," Sharapova said. "But on a court like this that gives her the time to get back, that's what she loves. A little bit impatient, her doing a great job of retrieving it deep and making me hit another ball, yeah, kind of one thing after the other."
Sharapova wouldn't say one way or another whether she was aware of the qualification scenarios walking on court, but said that her goal was to finish her season on a winning note. "I just really wanted to win this match," she said. "I had so many chances and it was just not the way that I wanted to go out in the tournament. That was my goal no matter how physical the match or how tough it was to lose that second set was, I wanted to win it." The win secured her the No. 2 ranking to end the season, a strong result considering she was on the verge of falling out of the top ten in March.
Despite the loss, Radwanska's ability to steal that second set kept her chances of qualifying for the semifinals alive. She needed her good friend Caroline Wozniacki to beat No. 3 Petra Kvitova in the next match, and Wozniacki was well-aware that Radwanska's fate was on her racket. "When I saw her [before her match] she was already like, 'I know, I know'," Radwanska said. "She knew what was going on."
Wozniacki then stepped out on the court and got the job done. She played her best match of the week to beat Kvitova 6-2, 6-3 to go undefeated through group play. She served at 70 percent and won 67 percent of her first serve points and 50 percent of her second serve points. She also returned well, keeping Kvitova's success rate on both her first and second serves below 50 percent. Knowing she had already qualified for the semifinals, Wozniacki played freely. It left Kvitova shaking her head.
"Of course I wanted to win today for sure," Kvitova said. "I mean, Caro played very relaxed and played so well. She was better on the court. I'm just glad that I beat Maria yesterday. It was after long time, so for me it was good win yesterday." Wozniacki, the lowest seed in the tournament, has now notched three consecutive top ten wins for the first time in her career. The last time she beat three top ten players at any tournament was the 2010 WTA Finals, where she made the final and lost to Kim Clijsters.
Radwanska joked she would reward Wozniacki with a shopping spree. "I think we just going to go shopping, but with my credit card."