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Comparing Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams in 2012

Tennis media and fans alike have often raised the question, how can Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon, the Olympics, and the US Open in 2012 not be ranked World No. 1 at the end of the year?

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Victoria Azarenka came out blisteringly hot at the beginning of the year, winning 26 straight matches over the course of five tournaments (Sydney, Australian Open, Doha, Indian Wells, and Miami). She picked up her first Slam win at the Australian Open, along with three WTA titles.

Meanwhile, while Azarenka went 26-0 in January through March before losing a match, Serena Williams started the year 10-3 over the same period, accumulating just 650 WTA ranking points to Azarenka’s astonishing total of 4620.

Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka cumulative ranking points by month.

Indeed, because of Azarenka’s incredible start to the year, it took Williams until May of 2012 to accumulate as many points as Azarenka earned in January alone.

Williams made a strong push over the summer, winning two Slams and the Olympic gold medal. But Azarenka remained consistent. The World No. 1 reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, picked up the singles bronze medal at the Olympics, and reached the final of the US Open.

When combined with Azarenka’s head start in 2012, it was incredibly difficult for Williams to catch up to Azarenka by the end of the year, and virtually impossible when Williams elected to skip WTA tournaments in September.

Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka ranking points per month.

To sum up 2012, Azarenka built up an insurmountable ranking points lead in the first few months of 2012 while Williams struggled. By the time Williams found her groove in the summer, Azarenka had pulled so far ahead that it would’ve taken a collapse from Azarenka for Williams to have surpassed her.

Even though Williams was arguably the better player in the latter half of the year, Azarenka played well enough to hold onto her top spot.

(Special thanks to Kevin Fischer of the WTA for providing detailed rankings data.)

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