Serena Williams announced her return to the top of women's tennis with an imperious summer on the grass.
WTA Staff

Serena Williams is not accustomed to playing second fiddle to anyone.

But, going into the grass court season, she was in distinct danger of being upstaged by two younger rivals.

Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova's stellar performances in the first half of the year consigned Williams, who had impressed herself on the clay, to a footnote in the story of the 2012 season.

That was all to change when the tour made the switch to grass in June, as Williams delivered an emphatic rebuttal to the suggestion in certain quarters that her best days were behind her.

As has become custom, Williams - and several fellow Top 10 members - eschewed playing a tune-up event before Wimbledon, leaving the path clear for the unexpected trio of Tamira Paszek, Melanie Oudin and Nadia Petrova to triumph in Eastbourne, Birmingham and 's-Hertogenbosch, respectively.

There were plenty of surprises at the All-England Club too, with a number of high-profile names, most notably Sharapova, suffering premature exits. In the third round, Williams was a whisker away from suffering the same fate, calling on all her reserves of grit and determination to edge out Zheng Jie, 67(5) 62 97.

As is so often the case, though, the American saved her best for the business end of the tournament, with a staggering 37 aces helping her past defending champion Petra Kvitova and Azarenka and into a seventh Wimbledon final.

Here she faced someone appearing in their very first: Agnieszka Radwanska.

After a slight early summer dip in form, Radwanska had been back at her cerebral best in SW19, slicing through the draw and conjuring up a grass court masterclass to see off high-flying Angelique Kerber in the semifinals.

Her intelligent use of angles and spins and regular forays to the net left Kerber flummoxed and for a 45-minute spell in the final, it looked like it would account for Williams too.

But, just as an upset appeared to be brewing, Williams clicked into gear once more, reeling off the final four games to win her fifth Wimbledon crown and end a two-year wait for Grand Slam title number 14.

A few hours later, Williams returned to Centre Court to partner her sister, Venus, to victory under the roof in the doubles final against Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka.

And her magical summer would not end there. Three weeks on, Williams was back on the rapidly refurbished lawns of the All-England Club to compete for Olympic gold.

This time she was in even more dominant mood, giving up a meager 17 games on her way to the top of the podium, including a dazzling victory over Sharapova in one-sided final.

Just for good measure, Serena also picked up doubles gold alongside Venus - the third time the sisters have done so at the Games - overcoming Hlavackova and Hradecka in front of a déjà vu suffering Centre Court crowd.