WTA Tour review 2010
Skysports.com's Alex Williams looks back on another intriguing year in the women's game.
Last Updated: 23/12/10 10:03am
A number of players temporarily upset the apple-cart with breakthrough years, but in the end it was the veteran stars that had the last laugh in 2010.
The season was kicked into life by Justine Henin's return to top-level competition after her retirement, and the Belgian great duly reached the final of the Australian Open in January before falling to Serena Williams.
The younger of the Williams sisters is no longer a year-round force on the WTA Tour, but this season she has once again proved that her grand slam pedigree is unmatched in the modern women's game.
After winning the Australian Open for a fifth time, she competed sparingly until Wimbledon, where she took her fourth title by beating breakout star Vera Zvonareva in the final.
In the meantime, Francesca Schiavone saw off Samantha Stosur in a new-look French Open final, with both ladies using their performances at Roland Garros to establish themselves in the world's top 10.
A season-ending injury to world number one Williams allowed Caroline Wozniacki to grab top spot in the WTA rankings, with the Dane racking up six wins on tour throughout the season - a bigger tally than anyone else.
However, an in-form Wozniacki could not claim a maiden grand slam title at the US Open as instead it was Kim Clijsters who retained her crown at Flushing Meadows and then edged out the new world number one at the year-ending WTA Tour Championships.
Player of the year - Serena Williams
Carloine Wozniacki may be the world number one by a clear margin, but a player of the year must be able to succeed in the biggest tournaments, and no one does that better than Serena Williams.
The American capped another year of grand slam success with victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with an inspired Samantha Stosur stopping her at Roland Garros. A foot injury prevented her from making any headlines towards the end of the year but she had already shown enough to consolidate her status as the one to beat in grand slams. Serena also won doubles titles with sister Venus at the Australian Open and French Open.
Rising star - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
With all the top performers this year being either established stars or players making mid-to-late-20s breakthroughs, it has not exactly been a vintage year for the 'rising star'. Caroline Wozniacki possibly fits the bill, but as the top-ranked player in the world she can hardly rise much further.
At number 21, Pavlyuchenkova is by far and away the world's highest ranked teenager and the Russian seems to be making progress after claiming her first two WTA titles this year. A breakthrough in one of the grand slams next year could see her climb even further up the rankings by the time she turns 20 in July.
Most improved - Vera Zvonareva
Zvonareva's form over the second half of the season was one of the more remarkable stories of 2010. The new world number two was known primarily for her mental fragility until she genuinely grew into an elite player after a run to the final of Wimbledon.
Linking up with new coach and former doubles partner Sergey Demekhin seems to have eliminated the mental breakdowns and improved her game radically, although some may be wary of her new reputation as perennial runner-up.
Comeback - Justine Henin
Henin followed in the footsteps of Belgian rival Kim Clijsters by opting to come out of retirement and, like her compatriot, enjoyed instant success. She reached the final of her first tournament back in early January before going on to also claim the runner-up spot at the Australian Open, where she came up short against Serena Williams.
Two titles on the WTA Tour followed throughout the year and although the latter part of the season was lost to injury, Henin showed she still has what it takes to mix it with the best players of today.
Performance - Francesca Schiavone at the French Open
Seeded only at number 17, Schiavone was a huge outsider going into the French Open but would pull off a truly historic run that saw her become the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title.
Schiavone easily saw off Caroline Wozniacki in the last eight and was leading Elena Dementieva when the Russian retired in the semi-finals. The victorious campaign was rounded off with a win over Samantha Stosur, who was enjoying her own fairytale run, in the final. As well as the impressive results, her flashy shots and brilliant one-handed backhand added a welcome touch of style to Roland Garros.
Match of the year - Victoria Azarenka v Serena Williams, Australian Open
For a set and a half, Azarenka was unplayable. The seventh seed seemed on the verge of a famous victory as she overpowered and outhit the then world number one to race into a shocking 6-4 4-0 lead.
A Serena comeback seemed implausible at that point, such was the level of Azarenka's play, but Williams dug deep and somehow upped her own hitting. Azarenka squandered her chance in a second set tie-break before running out of steam in the decider, which Serena took comfortably. An incredible display of power tennis from both players.
Low point - Dementieva retires
There was not a dry eye on court when Elena Dementieva announced her shock retirement in front of her fellow players at the year-ending WTA Championships in Doha.
One of the original Russian superstars, she successfully overcame a reputation for shaky and inconsistent play earlier in her career, becoming one of the most popular figures in tennis along the way. Given the progress she had made, it was sad to see her go out without an elusive grand slam title.