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WTA Finals Rewind: Venus Williams beats No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 en route to 2008 title
It’s the only time anyone has beaten the Top 3 players on the WTA rankings at the WTA Finals—or at any WTA event in the last 20 years, for that matter.
Published Oct 27, 2022
This week we’re looking back at five of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the WTA Finals, with the 2022 edition of the season-ending championships kicking off in Fort Worth, Texas in just a few days.
We’ve already covered Monica Seles’ five-set victory over Gabriela Sabatini in the 1990 final, Steffi Graf’s marathon win over Martina Hingis in another five-setter in the 1996 final and Maria Sharapova’s come-from-behind victory over Serena Williams in the 2004 final, and today we have a very rare feat:
Venus beats No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 en route to the 2008 title
Statistically, it was the toughest path to the title in WTA Finals history.
Venus Williams, who was ranked No. 8 going into the tournament, which was held in Doha, Qatar that year, had to go through the Top 3 players on the WTA rankings. She took out two of them in the round robin stage, beating No. 2-ranked Dinara Safina, 7-5, 6-3, and No. 3-ranked Serena Williams, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0—and in between taking out another Top 5 player, No. 5 Elena Dementieva, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
Then, in the semifinals, she defeated then-No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
With her lowest-ranked opponent of the week, No. 9 Vera Zvonareva, awaiting her in the final, Venus was asked after her semifinal victory whether she was going to “take her foot slightly off the accelerator”.
“No way,” she replied.
And she didn’t—after dropping a tight first set to Zvonareva she went on full acceleration, defeating the Russian for her first WTA Finals crown, 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-2.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to end the season this way,” Venus said afterwards.
“I’ve never even had the opportunity to play this tournament very often, so it’s really awesome to have the opportunity to play here and play well.”
So just how rare was Venus’ sweep of the Top 3 en route to the title?
Since WTA rankings began in 1975, it’s one of only three instances where a player beat the Top 3 all at the same tournament, and the only time in the last 20 years.
PLAYERS TO DEFEAT THE WTA TOP 3 AT THE SAME EVENT:
~ Steffi Graf at 1999 Roland Garros (d. No. 2 Davenport in QFs, No. 3 Seles in SFs and No. 1 Hingis in F)
~ Serena Williams at 2002 Miami (d. No. 3 Hingis in QFs, No. 2 Venus in SFs and No. 1 Capriati in F)
~ Venus Williams at 2008 WTA Finals (d. No. 2 Safina in RR, No. 3 Serena in RR and No. 1 Jankovic in SFs)