Serena takes wrecking ball to rivals
London: She will be 33 in 2014 and it`ll be 19 years since she made her WTA debut, but Serena Williams remains the dominant force in women`s tennis condemning out-classed, under-powered rivals to the shadows.
The American diva finished 2013 with 11 titles while her major triumphs at the French and US Opens took her Grand Slam haul to 17, one off the mark shared by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and just five away from Steffi Graf`s Open Era record of 22.
In a year of staggering dominance, Williams enjoyed a match record of 78 wins against just four defeats, claimed the season-ending WTA Championships title and became the oldest number one player.
Her $12,385,572 total prize money smashed the previous season record of $7,923,920 set by Victoria Azarenka in 2012 and at one stage she went on a 34-match winning streak, just one short of the record set by sister Venus in 2000.
She fired 480 aces which was more than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer managed.
And just for good measure, she was also on hand to supply some of the best quips and controversies, leading to spectacular public spats with the likes of Maria Sharapova and compatriot Sloane Stephens.
Despite her complete control of the women`s game, Williams insists there is always room for improvement, starting at the Australian Open where last year she was knocked out in the fourth round by Stephens, a defeat which sparked a year-long feud between the two.
"I have some areas where I can do a lot better for next year and I look forward to it," said Williams.
"My goal is just to go a year in Australia without twisting an ankle. That`s all I`m going to start with."
Williams believes becoming the oldest woman to win the French Open was a key triumph, a belief no doubt fired by her blossoming personal relationship with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
"The French Open was probably the thing that stands out most," she said after a second Paris title to add to her first from 2002.
"I really wanted to win that. And also being undefeated on clay was pretty exciting too."
Victory in Paris was achieved with a straight sets win over defending champion Sharapova, leaving the Russian without a victory over the American in almost a decade.
The pair`s tense relationship reached boiling point at Wimbledon when they traded verbal blows over their respective love lives.
"She begins every interview with `I`m so happy. I`m so lucky` -- it`s so boring. She`s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it," said Serena, in a reference to Sharapova`s romance with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov.
Sharapova hit back, aiming for a Williams-Mouratoglou bullseye.
"If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids," said Sharapova.
The spat did nothing for their Wimbledon campaigns -- Williams losing in the fourth round to eventual runner-up Sabine Lisicki while Sharapova slumped to a second round loss to Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito.
Sharapova played just one more match in the year -- an opening round loss to Stephens in Cincinnati in August -- before calling it quits with a shoulder injury.
The Russian star, still comfortably the world`s highest-earning sportswoman, has hired Sven Groeneveld, the former coach of Monica Seles, to help her in 2014 after splitting with long-term coach Thomas Hogstedt.
World number two Victoria Azarenka remains Williams`s biggest rival.
The statuesque Belarusian began 2013 by successfully defending her Australian Open title and followed it with victory over Williams in the Doha tournament.
Another win over the American in Cincinnati buoyed her ahead of the US Open, but the 24-year-old suffered a second successive final defeat to the American.
Azarenka`s overall record remains poor against Williams at three wins against 13 losses.
Williams is 14-2 against Sharapova and 10-1 when she faces China`s world number three, Li Na.
Li is the highest ever ranked Asian woman and her season was book-ended by a runners-up spot to Azarenka in Australia and Williams at the WTA Championships in Istanbul.
The year wasn`t entirely dominated by Williams and Azarenka as Wimbledon witnessed one of the most unlikely title triumphs when French jumping jack Marion Bartoli defeated a tearful Lisicki in the final.
Mindful of lightning not striking twice, Bartoli quit tennis four weeks later.