ISTANBUL — The way the season has gone for Serena Williams, there was only one fitting way for it to end.
Williams became the eighth woman to win 11 or more titles in a year and the first since Martina Hingis had 12 in 1997. The American also is the first to repeat as champion at the season-ending WTA Championships since Justine Henin in 2007.
“It was an awesome year of tennis,” said Williams, who sank to her knees after firing a backhand winner on her second match point.
The victory brought Williams‘ prize money total for the year to $12,385,572. The only player, male or female, to earn more in a year was Novak Djokovic with $12,803,737 in 2012 and $12,619,803 in 2011.
Williams won the event for the fourth time, having captured the elite tournament for the top eight players also in her debut in 2001 and in 2009 and 2012.
Williams has won 78 of 82 matches this year and will finish the year as the top-ranked player for the third time in her career after 2002 and 2009. Williams‘ titles this year included the French and U.S. Opens for a total of 17 Grand Slam crowns. Her winning percentage of .951 is the best on the tour since 1990. Martina Navratilova had an 86-1 record and a .989 percentage in 1983.
Still, Williams said she would have preferred to have won at least one more Grand Slam title.
“I live to win slams. I mean, obviously I’m so excited to be the WTA champion,” Williams said. “I can’t say it’s the best (season). I can’t say it’s not the best. I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Li was in her first WTA Championships final and will finish the year at a career-high No. 3.
“I felt good this morning, much better than I did yesterday, but then in practice I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I was a little worried, but I just hung in there and just kept going and going,” Williams said.
The Chinese player was quick to break serve for a 2-1 lead and rolled through the first set, which ended with Williams netting a forehand and hitting a backhand passing shot wide.
Williams won a key game at the start of the second set that went to nine deuces and lasted nearly 12 minutes as the American fended off two break points before finally prevailing with a service winner.