The Best of Women's Tennis in 2013
Serena Williams. Once again, Serena has continued her dominance. With some help from a few other steady performers, Serena has helped stabilize a women's game that was awfully shaky at the top a few years ago. Just to recap her year: Serena will finish 2013 atop the rankings having compiled a singles record of 78-4 and winning 11 titles—including the US Open, the French Open, and the season-ending WTA Championships. Pretty impressive, to say the least.
Alisa Kleybanova fights her way back to the court. After missing some time while fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma, Kleybanova made her triumphant return to competition in 2013. She deservedly won the WTA Comeback Player of the Year award. I hope she can continue her success long into the future.
Young players continue to grow. Several young players continued to show signs of growth in 2013, giving women's tennis plenty of hope for the eventual post-Serena era (even though she's shown no signs of relinquishing her crown). There seems to be a lot of young talent already inside the top 100 and all of them seem hungry for their share of the spotlight. It's exciting to see some fresh, young players like Eugenie Bouchard, Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and Laura Robson having success. Hopefully they'll be able to sustain their success since we've seen some other promising young players fizzle out pretty quickly over the past few years.
The Worst of Women's Tennis in 2013
Bartoli announces her retirement. Bartoli's Wimbledon win was one of the high points of her career and her excitement after the win was great to see. A Wimbledon title certainly put the icing on her otherwise solid career, but it was disappointing to see her succumb to nagging injuries, along with mental and physical fatigue so soon after her biggest victory. That's not to say I'm disappointed in Bartoli—clearly she has to do what's best for her, but it just goes to show you much of a grind it is to be on the pro tennis circuit. Other players like Henin, Hingis, and Clijsters all retired early and came back so we'll have to see if Bartoli's retirement sticks.
Sharapova's disappointing second half. After a good start to the year, including a semi-final appearance in Australia and a finals appearance at Roland Garros, Sharapova's season went downhill. Following a straight sets loss to Michelle Larcher de Brito in the second round at Wimbledon, Sharapova only played one more match before a shoulder injury sidelined her for the rest of the season. It's concerning to see her having more shoulder trouble since her last shoulder ailment required surgery and left many people doubting if she'd be able to come back. Hopefully the injury isn't as serious as last time and her 2014 campaign will go better. Oh yeah, while we're on the subject, let's not forget about Sharapova's revolving door of coaches in 2013—including the bizarre coaching arrangement with Jimmy Connors that lasted all of… one match.
Azarenka (maybe) gaming Stephens in Australia. Ultimately, Azarenka's reasoning for taking an injury timeout during her semifinal matchup with Sloane Stephens is unclear. First she seemingly admitted that she was nervous and needed to regroup, then she backtracked and said she had a chest injury that was causing shortness of breath. In the end, there's no point guessing what might have happened had Azarenka not taken the injury timeout but I think most of us can agree that the "injury" timeout probably wasn't on the up-and-up—especially given her history with questionable injuries and withdrawals. One last thing on this: gamesmanship is part of competition, but so is sportsmanship. Azarenka is one of tennis' marquee female players and hopefully she'll put a better foot forward in 2014.
What do you think were the high and low points for women's tennis in 2013? Tell us in the comments section!