Berlin - Serena Williams believes her best years may still be ahead of her after she ended the year in record-breaking style on Sunday.
The 32-year-old American successfully defended her WTA Championships title, beating Li Na 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to finish the year with a 78th victory against just four losses, and her 11th title of the year.
Williams finished the campaign with prize money of $12 385 572 (R121 874 028), shattering the all-time women’s record set last year by Victoria Azarenka, who won $7 923 920.
It is also the third-highest single season prize money total in tennis history, men’s and women’s - only Novak Djokovic’s 2011 and 2012 totals are higher.
She is the fourth player to win four or more titles at the season-ending event and is the oldest champion.
Williams is also the first player to win 11 WTA titles in a season since 1997, when Martina Hingis won 12.
Worryingly for her flagging rivals, she now boasts a record of winning 32 of her last 34 matches against top five players.
Furthermore, Sunday’s triumph may just persuade Williams that adding to her 17 Grand Slam titles next year is certainly possible, and that winning six more, to overhaul Steffi Graf, might eventually come within reach too.
But Williams declined to say whether or not this year had been her best.
“I live to win Slams,” she said. “I am excited to win the WTA Championships, but I would say (this season is) only top three.
“I am not going to say that this was the best. I think some years I can do better and next year, I hope - I look forward to it.”
Williams, who will turn 33 next September, did agree, however, that she might reduce the number of tournaments on her schedule after playing more than 80 matches this year.
“I think 15 is a bare minimum… definitely not more, maybe one or two fewer, maybe 13 or 14.”
Williams had needed three sets to beat Jelena Jankovic in a draining semi-final on Saturday and was in trouble on Sunday at a set down and 3-3 in the second before she reeled off nine games in succession against her 31-year-old Chinese opponent.
“I’ve had a really long year, and I’m really excited, honestly. I really didn’t expect to get through this match today,” admitted the American.
Asked how she had managed to refuel after her exhausting near-disaster against Jankovic, Williams said: “My mum said maybe to get out of my room and have dinner.
“I didn’t do treatment and that got my mind off tennis altogether and I think it helped.”
As for Li Na, Williams said she felt some empathy.
“Li is older and adding some things to her game,” she said. “And I definitely want to do the same.”