Serena Williams grabbed the majority of the headlines in what was a somewhat transitional year for women's tennis. Changes at the top of the women's rankings dominated much of the on and off court drama as the top spot switched hands almost like a baton in a relay race. Serena began the year as No 2 in determined fashion, making short work of Dinara Safina in straight sets in the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne.
The one-sided affair earned Serena her 10th grand slam title, allowing her to overtake Serbia's Jelena Jankovic at the top of the women's world rankings. It was a short-lived reign, as Safina whittled away on the WTA circuit to leapfrog Serena on points. Without a grand slam title to her name, the Russian's No 1 ranking received much criticism, not least from her main challenger for the crown. A war of words over who deserved to be No 1 was fuelled when Serena claimed her 11th grand slam title by defeating her elder sister Venus in emphatic style in the Wimbledon final. It was the fourth all-Williams clash and an eighth title for the sisters in the last 10 Wimbledon finals.
Grand slam success did not translate into a top spot in the rankings, however, much to Serena's public frustration. "You know, I'm not super motivated [to reclaim the No 1 spot]," Serena said after her Wimbledon victory. "I think if you hold three grand slam titles maybe you should be number one, but not on the WTA Tour obviously-' "You know, my motivation is maybe just to win another grand slam and stay No 2, I guess-"
Motivated or not, Serena did regain the top spot in October, when a back injury forced Safina to quit during her opening match in the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha and Serena, who had won the previous day, was guaranteed to end the year as No 1. Serena and Venus are often unwilling competitors on the WTA tour, shunning routine appearances in favour of high-profile tournaments, which means a lack of regular points and inconsistency in the rankings..
While their dominance of the courts is not an issue, the lack of serious competition on the circuit may have been a deterrent for the two most successful players in the women's game. The opposition, though, is stiffening with the return of Kim Clijsters and Justin Henin. Clijsters's fairy tale comeback was to quickly put a dent into Serena's on-court domination. After a two-year break and becoming a mother for the first time, the Belgian reappeared on the circuit with a wild-card entry for the US Open.
Defeating Venus on her way to the semi-finals, the 26-year-old dispatched Serena in dramatic circumstances to become the first women's wild-card to reach a grand slam final. Serena lost her temper as a foot-fault was called against her to complete a double fault with the Belgian just two points from victory at 15-30. Serena unleashed a verbal tirade at the line official who called the fault, which earned her a point penalty on match point and handed the victory to Clijsters in the most bizarre of circumstances.
Serena was later handed a record $82,500 (Dh304,000) fine and a two-year grand slam probation for the outburst. Clijsters' remarkable comeback continued, as she went on to beat the Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki in the final, becoming the first mother to win at Flushing Meadows since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980. The final also confirmed Wozniacki as a budding talent for the future. Maria Sharapova's re-emergence in the latter part of the year also showed promise. After struggling to recover from a shoulder injury, the Russian reached the finals in Toronto and triumphed against Serbia's Jelena Jankovic in Tokyo, which suggests she may again be a force to reckon with next year.
The comeback saga continued late into 2009, with the former world No 1 Henin announcing a comeback from retirement. Having bowed out of professional tennis in May 2008, the four-time French Open champion returns to the WTA circuit in January and has a wild-card entry for the Australian Open. All of which guarantees more interesting times for women's tennis @Email:email@example.com