Another WTA season is now under the belt and it's time to take a look at this year's winners and losers on the tour in the form of a Top-10 (and a few more) report card.
(1) VICTORIA AZARENKA
It was probably safe to say that Victoria Azarenka was going to have a pretty good season when she roared out to that unstoppable 26-0 start, which included a trip into her first-ever Grand Slam final and a satisfying victory at the 2012 Aussie Open. The Belarusian star also reached her first-ever U.S. Open final, landed in the Wimbledon semis, and secured a bronze medal at the London Olympic Games, which, like Wimbledon, was also staged on the grass at the All England Club. She appeared in nine finals all told, and captured six titles, with her biggest non-major title coming in the California desert at Indian Wells.
The 23-year-old Minsk native became only the 11th woman to end a year at No. 1. She also led the tour in match wins (69-10) and set a new women's record for prize money in a season at just over $7.9 million. Azarenka spent almost the entire year at No. 1, save for brief stays at the top by fellow blonde stars Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova.
(2) MARIA SHARAPOVA
The highlight for Maria Sharapova's season came in June when she finally reached her first-ever French Open final and won it to become only the 10th woman in history to secure tennis' career Grand Slam. She opened her campaign with a runner-up finish at the Oz Open and also went on to reach the gold- medal match at the Summer Games (where she settled for silver), a U.S. Open semifinal, and a final at the prestigious season-ending WTA Championships. The Russian superstar also briefly returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time since 2008 (only to relinquish the spot back to Azarenka) and won 60 of her 71 matches in her strong 2012.
The 25-year-old Maria amassed just over $6.5 million in prize money by reaching nine finals, which included three titles.
(3) SERENA WILLIAMS
What else can you say about Serena this year? The American stalwart added two more major titles to her Grand Slam haul, which now sits at 15, as she simply dominated women's tennis in '12. The 31-year-old flattened the field by going 58-4, as she captured no less than four of the six biggest singles prizes in women's tennis -- Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, Olympic gold, and the WTA Championships. The former No. 1 rolled into seven finals -- and won all seven -- and capped her incredible year with a tidy 12-match winning streak.
Most of Serena's damage this year came after she was stunned by okay Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French, which marked her first-ever opening-round loss at a Grand Slam event. She would go a dazzling 33-1 the rest of the way following the Razzano debacle.
Serena was a perfect 8-0 combined against the "top-two" players in the world, Azarenka and Sharapova, going 5-0 against Vika and 3-0 versus Shaza. Serena punished both stars in the same week in a pair of events in Madrid back in May and at the WTA Championships in Istanbul two weeks ago.
And, just for good measure, Serena became the second woman in tennis history to eclipse the $7-million mark in one season, joining Azarenka this year. Serena holds the women's all-time mark with almost $42 million in prize money. No other woman has reached $30 million.
(4) AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA
Agnieszka Radwanska finished inside the Top 5 for the first time in her career. The quality Pole went 59-19 on her way to a year-end No. 4 spot. She reached her first-ever Grand Slam final, losing to Serena at Wimbledon, and appeared in four other finals, going 3-2 overall in her 2012 title tilts, including a huge win at the so-called "fifth major" in Miami.
The 23-year-old was the first Pole to reach a major final since 1939, and wound up with a career-best $4 million in prize money.
(5) ANGELIQUE KERBER
Angelique Kerber rounds out the Top 5, this after opening the year at No. 32 in the world. The sturdy left-hander quietly won 60 matches (60-22); reached a Wimbledon semifinal and French Open quarterfinal; tallied the first two titles of her career; and was a runner-up at two other events, establishing herself as the top German, and perhaps the top southpaw on the women's circuit.
The 24-year-old reached at least the semifinals in 10 tourneys this year and corralled just under $2 million in prize money.
(6) SARA ERRANI
Viva Italia! Sara Errani gave Italy its third straight women's finalist at the French Open, where she lost to the much-taller Sharapova. Errani's fellow diminutive compatriot Francesca Schiavone was a back-to-back finalist in Paris in 2010 and 2011.
Errani opened 2012 at No. 45 in the world before charging all the way into the Top 10. The gritty Bologna native reached five finals and captured four championships, with only Roland Garros marking her lone setback in a '12 finale. She reached at least the quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slam events, including a trip into her first-ever U.S. Open semifinal, with only a Wimbledon QF escaping her grasp.
The 25-year-old Errani pocketed more than $3.1 million in prize dough.
(7) Li Na
Li Na did her share of struggling after capturing her first-ever major title at last year's French Open, but she managed to right the ship en route to a world No. 7 finish this year. The veteran Chinese slugger failed to reach a major quarterfinal this year, but did title in Cincinnati and was a runner-up in three other events -- Sydney, Rome and Montreal.
The 30-year-old settled for a 42-17 record and $2.28 million in prize money. Not bad.
(8) PETRA KVITOVA
With all due respect to Angie Kerber, Petra Kvitova is arguably the best lefty on the women's side and just helped the Czech Republic to a second straight Fed Cup title. The 6-foot southpaw reached at least the semis at half the 2012 Slams and was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, where, unfortunately, the 22- year-old failed to defend her title from a year earlier. She battled injuries and illness for a good portion of the season, but did manage to go 2-0 in her lone finals.
Kvitova crossed the '12 finish line with a quasi-disappointing 46-17 record and just over $2.7 million in prize money.
(9) SAMANTHA STOSUR
Sam Stosur endured an up-and-down campaign, reaching the semis at the French and quarters at the U.S. Open, while failing to get past the first round at her home Slam (Aussie) and second round at Wimbledon. The surprise 2011 U.S. Open champ appeared in only two finals all year and failed to garner a title. As a matter of fact, Stosur has managed only three titles during her entire WTA career, one each in 2009, 2010 and 2011. That's it.
The 28-year-old came in at an okay 44-24 and earned just under $2 million. The money's nice, but even Sam would tell you the results weren't there.
(10) CAROLINE WOZNIACKI
Caroline Wozniacki started the year at No. 1 after somehow enjoying back-to- back year-end No. 1 finishes in 2010 and 2011. But the wheels kind of came off this season.
The 22-year-old Danish star finished with a decent 50-21 record, but failed to reach a final until April, this after appearing in eight finals the year before, and didn't capture a 2012 title until September, when the season was already nine months old. Ouch. She wound up with two titles in four finals and crossed the finish line at No. 10, or nine spots below where she started the year.
And talk about disappointing, Wozniacki, who dates current world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy, suffered first-round losses at the last two Grand Slam events of the year and was a third-round loser at the French. She did manage to reach a quarterfinal at January's Aussie Open, but, for the most part, 2012 was somewhat of a lost season for the former No. 1, who failed to reach the season-ending Championships for the first time since 2008 and closed out her year by getting spanked in a final in Bulgaria last week.
She claimed just over $2.4 million in prize money.
Now, let's head outside the Top 10 to discuss a few more women.
No. 11 Marion Bartoli finished just outside the Top 10 in a bit of a down year for her. The odd Frenchwoman reached two finals this year, but failed to win a title for the second time in three seasons. She reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, but failed to get past the third round at the other three Slams, including stunning second-round exits at the French Open and Wimbledon.
The 28-year-old, she of the two-handed forehand and backhand, settled for a 41-25 record and $1.55 million.
Nadia Petrova is a former Top-10 star who has been unable to stay healthy for a good part of her career. But after opening 2012 at No. 29 in the world, the capable Russian finished the year at No. 12, her best year-end spot in four years. Petrova was a fixture inside the Top 20 for eight straight years before last year's No. 29 finish. She managed to reach only one final last year before rebounding with a three-final campaign this season, with all three resulting in titles, including a quality one at the Pan Pacific event in Tokyo. Petrova ended her season last week by pasting Wozniacki in a final in Sofia.
The 30-year-old Muscovite didn't fare so well at the majors, however, with her best result coming in the form of a fourth-round finish at the U.S. Open in September.
Still, Petrova wound up with a 39-19 record and just under $1.8 million in prize money.
We couldn't have a year-end piece without mentioning former No. 1 Venus Williams. The 32-year-old is currently ranked a respectable 24th in the world, this despite missing the Australian Open and failing to get past the second round at the other three majors, including a first-round flop at Wimbledon, her best Slam, which she's won five times, just like her younger sister.
Venus, slowed by the fatigue-inducing and joint-pain-causing auto-immune disease Sjogren's syndrome, reached her first final in two years, and made it count with a long-awaited title in Luxembourg last month. She closed out her sparse year at 24-9 and collected a paltry (for her) $607,000. She enjoyed some more doubles success with Serena, but we're only concentrating on singles prowess here.
And finally, we end with four-time major champion Kim Clijsters, who called it a career (again) after losing in the second round at the U.S. Open. Her swan- song season did produce an Australian Open semifinal, this after winning the Down Under major the year before, and a trip into the fourth round at Wimbledon (which she never won in nine trips there). The oft-injured 29-year- old wife and mother was 20-6 in her final year and failed to reach one last final in seven events, although she did make it into semifinals in three of her first four tourneys of 2012
Grade: It doesn't really matter, does it?
Nice job, ladies!