ISTANBUL, Turkey - With a barrage of winners from every part of her game - from the serve and off the return, off the ground and at the net, a whopping 40 in all - Serena Williams overpowered Maria Sharapova to complete a dream season at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships - Istanbul 2012.
There was a lot pointing Williams' way going into the match - winning 47 of her last 49 matches, an 11-match winning streak against Top 2 players, and perhaps most importantly an eight-match winning streak against Sharapova.
And although it wasn't easy by any means, all of those trends continued as Williams held all nine of her service games and broke Sharapova three times - once in the first set, twice in the second set - to score a 64 63 win Sunday night, rifling a string of forehand winners in the last few points of the match.
"I actually thought about the last time we played at the WTA Championships, and she won, and she's also ranked ahead of me right now, so I really had nothing to lose," Williams jubilated. "I feel great right now. This was exactly my dream and I'm so happy I was able to achieve it. And the Turkish fans here are so amazing, so nice and so supportive - I've never seen so many signs with my name on them. I can't even explain how that makes me feel."
Williams finished the match with an incredible +26 differential of winners to unforced errors (40 to 14) while Sharapova finished at +1 (13 to 12).
Williams captured her seventh WTA title of the year, following triumphs at Charleston, Madrid, Wimbledon, Stanford, the Olympics and the US Open - it is her second-best season total, after capturing eight back in 2002.
"I would say it's pretty much the best season of my career, a little bit of a slow start though, so I have to give it to 2002 - but there's always 2013," she added.
The numbers keep piling up for Williams: having conquered the event in 2001 and 2009 too, she is now the sixth player ever to win the WTA Championships three times (after Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Kim Clijsters); at age 31 she is the oldest player ever to win the WTA Championships (Navratilova was the previous-oldest at age 30); and she is now also the second player in WTA history to surpass $7 million in prize money for a single season (Victoria Azarenka has also done it this year).
And it was all in front of a crowd of 16,410, the single day record for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships during its tenure in Istanbul.
Sharapova discussed the match and more during her press conference.
"She had another great serving day against me - I don't think I even had a break point," Sharapova said. "Maybe it was partly me not doing enough on the returns and partly she was serving well - a few moments when it was 30-all or 15-all, I didn't get a good return in. But that's one of the reasons she's such a great champion and has had a tremendous amount of success in her career.
"But yeah, I've got to keep moving forward. I'm proud of my year. I'm proud of my consistency. I'm proud I'm moving in the right direction in terms of improving my game and where I see it. I've accomplished a lot of things this year I really wanted, and wanted to get back in my career. A lot of great memories. Some difficult ones, but a lot of really positive thoughts moving into next year."
And one of those great memories? "I've said it throughout the tournament, that this has been the best WTA Championships I've been a part of. I only got to play a couple of matches last year, but this year, especially as the week went on, the excitement from the people from the second they call your name onto the court and you're walking out, it's pretty incredible as an athlete to have that sort of positive energy without even hitting a ball. The appreciation you have from people's understanding and respect of what you do is really unique.
"I think we were all unsure of how it was going to go in Istanbul because we never had such a big event here, only a smaller one. But we're all really happy.
"And we have another year here, too."