SINGAPORE: Serena Williams ended the season on top of the world once again Sunday as she hammered Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0 to seal a WTA Finals hat-trick and avenge her crushing loss to the Romanian.
Four days after her embarrassing 6-2, 6-0 defeat to Halep, Williams served up sweet revenge to win her fifth year-end title and become the first player to clinch three in a row since Monica Seles in 1992.
The 18-time Grand Slam-winner also finishes her second straight season as world number one, and with no sign she is slowing down with Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 major titles in her sights.
Williams, 33, was broken early in a see-sawing first set but she reeled off eight games in a row to humiliatingly “bagel” Halep, four days after the Romanian won a rare set to love against the American.
It was the biggest margin of victory in the final of the tournament, being held in Singapore for the first time, since Kim Clijsters blitzed Amelie Mauresmo 6-2, 6-0 in 2003.
“I had to play more Serena-style tennis and just do what I do best: enforce myself. That’s what I was trying to do,” said Williams, denying she deliberately tried to “bagel” Halep.
“It wasn’t in my mind really at all about getting a bagel. It was just about getting a win. That was it,” she said.
Williams’ seventh victory of the year came despite a left knee injury which forced her out of this month’s China Open and left her on painkillers.
The 33-year-old fired 26 winners to just five conceded to end a roller coaster 2014 on a high and leave fourth-ranked Halep, contesting the final on debut, non-pulsed.
“I gave everything today, and, you know, that was my level today.
Wasn’t my best day, but I’m still happy and I’m still enjoying this moment because it’s a good moment for me,” Halep said.
Alarm bells rang for Williams early on and she conceded the match’s first break to go behind 1-2, to chants of “Si-mo-na” at Singapore’s Indoor Stadium.
But the defending champion hit straight back, and aided by Halep’s double faults she shrieked “Come on!” as she completed a sequence of three game wins in a row.
Halep’s raking cross-court forehand got it back on serve but the frustrated Romanian pummeled her racket on the floor as she was broken again to go 3-5 down, before Williams served out the set.
With Williams firmly in the groove, Halep’s hopes of becoming the first player to beat the American in the same week were fast receding as it became an exercise in damage-limitation.
But a grimly determined Williams wasn’t letting up and as she punished Halep’s second serve and repeatedly rushed to the net, the second set raced past in just 25 minutes.
Williams brought up three match points on Halep’s serve and after trying to cheekily drop-shot the first, she smashed home the second before celebrating with her arms aloft.
She picked up the $2,047,000 winner’s cheque along with the Billie Jean King trophy, which she also lifted in 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013, and a specially cultivated orchid.
“I didn’t expect this. I just started training because I had such a knee in Beijing so I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to play here,” Williams said.
“And now I’ve won the Billie Jean King trophy again so for me it’s just really amazing, I’m so excited.”