For the first time since 2012, Serena Williams will not finish the season atop the WTA rankings.
As expected, Williams withdrew from the year-ending WTA Finals, announcing it via Twitter on Sunday night/Monday morning:
— WTA (@WTA) October 17, 2016
Williams cited her continued shoulder problems as the reason for withdrawal, though it would have been highly surprising to see her there even if healthy. She also didn’t play in 2015, and it simply makes sense for a mid-30s player to extend her offseason by nearly two months, especially because the “legacy building” part of the season is over.
With that said, don’t be surprised if Williams shows up in the IPTL again in December, as it offers the kind of paycheck that players understandably find hard to resist.
The official end to Williams’ season clinches the top ranking on the season for Angie Kerber. After winning the U.S. Open, she became the 22nd woman to become No. 1, but many of those players, including Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova, never finished there, a statement for being the best across an entire calendar year.
Kerber becomes the 12th woman to be year-end No. 1, breaking a three-year reign for Williams. In 2012, Williams finished (and never went higher than) third despite winning two Slams and Olympic gold (when that counted for points). She finished behind an ultra-consistent Victoria Azarenka, who went 69-10 and won her first major, as well as Maria Sharapova, who completed her career Grand Slam at the French Open.
This year, there was no ambiguity. Kerber became the first player since Justine Henin in 2007 to win more Grand Slams than Williams. Though she’s only won one other title (Stuttgart), her three titles are tied for most, while her seven finals lead the WTA.
The absence of Williams leaves one spot open at the WTA Finals. Johanna Konta, not playing this week, will get it unless Carla Suarez Navarro or Svetlana Kuznetsova win the title in Moscow.