Serena Williams and Turkey fare well at WTA Championships

Serena Williams and Turkey fare well at WTA Championships

Seren Williams (Photo: Reuters)

November 03, 2013, Sunday/ 15:11:00/ RACHEL MOLLMAN

Serena Williams is on top of the world in women's tennis after what many are calling her best season in history, which culminated in a thrilling win over China's Li Na in the finals of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Tour Championships in İstanbul last week.

"I really don't know if this was my best season ever, but definitely top three. I still have things to add to my game," she said. There have been rumors of retirement, but her attitude seems to suggest she will shoot for more titles.

The event on Oct. 22-27 was the last of the WTA Championship finals to be held at İstanbul's Sinan Erdem Dome to sellout crowds.

Local fans may not have to miss Serena or top women's tennis for long. The WTA Tour championship is heading off to Singapore for the next three years, meaning that the İstanbul Cup will resume as part of the WTA calendar for 2014. The cup, which stopped due to the WTA Tour Championship, is a forth-tier international-ranked competition to be held in the new Koza World of Sport Complex.

İstanbul's sell-outs

More than 16,000 tennis fans filled the Sinan Erdem Dome to watch the final match, and a total of 69,983 showed up over the five-day tournament between the world's top eight women's tennis players. The competition was aired in a record-setting 170 countries by 50 broadcasters. More than 1,000 hours of programming were produced in relation to the tournament.

The younger Williams sister also won last year's edition against Russia's Maria Sharapova in the final. More than 73,000 fans attended the tournament in 2012.

"İstanbul is a great host of the championships and fans have been tremendously supportive of the tournament," Williams said after last year's tournament. "The crowds were amazing and gave us such strong support from Day 1. I had an unbelievable time in my first trip to İstanbul and I hope this tournament continues to get more people, especially kids, involved in tennis," she added

These turnouts are surprising for a country not normally associated with tennis. However, Turkey has made a concerted effort host more international sporting events.

"The TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships bring the WTA's momentous 40th anniversary season to an end with a fitting final chapter written in an extraordinary city with amazing tennis fans," WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said, noting that the competition shows “the incredible reach that women's tennis has not only in Turkey, but all over the world.”

Fine finale

Closing off a successful season in which she lost just four out of 82 matches, Serena also became the first female tennis player to earn more than $10 million in winnings in one year. She won over $12 million.

The 32-year-old American shows no sign of slowing down. "Right now, I can't imagine my life without a tennis racquet in my hand," she noted.

Earlier this year, Serena won gold at the French Open and American Open, which helped her to her 17 Grand Slam titles. She has five titles in each the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, plus three in the French Open.

This season, she also won the Brisbane International, the Sony Open in Miami, the Family Circle Cup, the Madrid Open, the Italian Open, the Swedish Open, the Rogers Cup and the Chinese Open.

She also won the WTA Tour title in 2009, when she defeated her sister Venus in the final, and in 2001.

"Every tournament I play, I play to win," Serena said. "Not that I didn't do that before, but it was just different. I was just at a different place in my life, and more than anything I enjoy playing tennis,” she added.

She and trainer Patrick Mouratoglou have emphasized Serena's ability to improve next season. She may be gunning for a record number of Grand Slams -- the current record is 24.

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