It's getting to be that time again when the year-end No. 1 distinguishes herself on the WTA circuit.
This year, it looks like only two women -- Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova -- have a shot at finishing atop the rankings. But I'm certain that neither one of them is the best.
Azarenka has had a brilliant 2012 campaign, going 67-9 with a WTA co-leading six titles after opening her career year with a seemingly unstoppable 26-match winning streak.
The Belarusian star is fresh off her latest championship, last week in Linz, Austria, and has sat on the No. 1 perch for almost all of 2012.
But is she the best?
Azarenka reached her first-ever Grand Slam final in January and captured that elusive first major championship by beating Sharapova in the Australian Open final. She also captured a singles bronze medal at the London Olympic Games and finished as the U.S. Open runner-up to Serena Williams (who we'll get back to shortly).
The 23-year-old Azarenka, who also appeared in a Wimbledon semifinal this year, is 6-3 in a whopping nine finals this season, including an outstanding 3-1 record in four finals against Sharapova, who is 1-4 overall versus the Belarusian in 2012. Azarenka, however, is 0-3 in three finals this season against Serena (who we'll get back to shortly).
The second-ranked former No. 1 Sharapova also has enjoyed a tremendous 2012 campaign, as evidenced by a solid 56-10 record. She's tallied three titles in eight finals, which, unfortunately, means she's lost in five finals, with three of them coming at the hands of Azarenka.
The 25-year-old Russian beauty lost to Azarenka in the Aussie Open final, and failed to reach finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but she also landed in her first-ever French Open final and captured the championship to complete a coveted career Grand Slam, having already owned Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open crowns.
Maria also secured a silver medal at the Summer Games, where she was destroyed in the gold medal match by Serena (who we'll get back to very shortly).
And Sharapova, just like Azarenka, is winless in finals against Serena this year, going 0-2, with the other setback coming on that weird blue clay in Madrid, as the Russian lost handily to Serena in that one, as well.
So this must bring us to Serena -- the real No. 1 on the women's tour this year.
The now 31-year-old American legend has posted an incredible 53-4 record in 2012 and reached the final in six of her 12 events. And all six of those finals have resulted in a championship, which ties her with Azarenka for the '12 titles lead. That's 6-0 in finals!
Three of those finals have come against either Azarenka or Sharapova ... and the American great has won all three.
As a matter of fact, Serena is a dominant 4-0 overall against Azarenka this year and 2-0 versus Sharapova in 2012. That's 6-0 versus the "top two" women in the world, and she beat both Azarenka and Sharapova en route to glory at the Olympics and in Madrid.
Sounds like the best to me.
Did You Know?: Serena hasn't lost to Sharapova since 2004, going 8-0 over that time.
The former No. 1 Serena (who was already a career Grand Slam queen heading into this year) captured a fifth Wimbledon title, a first-ever singles gold medal at the Games and a fourth U.S. Open championship this past summer, which clearly marked one of the best-ever summers on the women's tour, this after suffering her first-ever opening-round loss at a major event when she was shocked by French veteran Virginie Razzano at Roland Garros. The amazing Serena is a sizzling 26-1 since that French stunner.
An honorable mention has to go to scrappy 23-year-old Pole Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No. 4 who is 57-17 this year with three titles in five finals and a runner-up finish to Serena at Wimbledon.
So, the rankings say Azarenka is No. 1 ... and Sharapova could possibly finish the year at No. 1 ... but it would seem obvious to me (and many others) that Serena is the true top dog on the ladies' circuit. Her record speaks for itself.