QUESTION: how does Serena Williams win two grand slams, Olympic gold and the WTA Championship among seven titles, lose only one match after the French Open, yet still not finish as the world No.1? ''If there is a bug somewhere, someone has to find it,'' quipped her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou of a system that has rewarded Victoria Azarenka instead.
Li Na started the week by declaring that Williams, fit and at her best, is unbeatable. Williams ended an unbeaten week having reinforced that fact; her 40-winner, 6-4, 6-3 finals defeat yesterday of second seed and regular whipping girl Maria Sharapova showcasing her dual strengths on both the serve and the return. Although the top ranking had already departed with the improved and consistent Azarenka, the truth of Li's words lingered.
''I always said that if I'm playing well and I'm doing everything right, you know, it's really difficult to beat me,'' said Williams, whose 2012 ranking was affected by her annual boycott of one WTA premier-level event (Indian Wells) and illness withdrawal from another (Beijing), as well as the ankle injury suffered in Brisbane that crippled her Australian Open campaign.
So if Williams will not be the top seed at the Australian Open she will, barring any mishaps in the coming months, start as a heavy favourite for a sixth title at Melbourne Park. She carried the same status into the season finale in Istanbul, where Williams later admitted she had put some pressure on herself to win.
''For me it was really important. I mean, for my own sanity,'' said the 15-time major winner. ''So … I really wanted it, even though I didn't need it. I don't think I needed to do anything else this year or any other year, but I really wanted to end on a good note.''