Seasons a-plenty

When Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the final of the year-end championships on Sunday, it capped a near unblemished second half of 2012. Williams became the first female player since Justine Henin in 2007 to claim at least seven titles in a season, and her winning percentage of .935 was the second highest (behind Henin) since 1990.

But, was it Williams' best season? Here's a look at Serena's top 10 seasons.

10. 2011. 22-3, 2 titles (0 Grand Slam titles)

Williams didn't win a major, but returning from a life-threatening illness was remarkable in itself. "I was on my death bed at one point," Williams, who had been diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs, said during her comeback in the summer of 2011.

And she came close to netting a big one, getting stopped by Samantha Stosur in the U.S. Open final.

9. 2005. 21-7, 1 title (1)

Illness, a bum shoulder but mostly an ankle injury limited Williams to 10 tournaments in 2005, and she ended the campaign by losing to a player ranked 127th.

Still, Williams triumphed in Melbourne, where she saved three match points against Sharapova in the semifinals before rallying again versus Lindsay Davenport. Never count Williams out, we've learned over the years -- especially in Australia.

8. 2007. 35-10, 2 titles (1)

Two things caught the eye: Williams' losses to Henin and the Australian Open. Henin sent Williams packing from the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.

But without Henin in Melbourne, an 81st-ranked Williams -- a knee injury ruined 2006 =- won in dramatic fashion, escaping against Nadia Petrova in the third round and fending off Shahar Peer in the quarterfinals.

7. 2008. 44-8, 4 titles (1)

Grand Slam redemption came at the U.S. Open.

Bundled out in the Australian Open quarterfinals by Jelena Jankovic, gone in the third round at Roland Garros and edged by sister Venus in the Wimbledon final, Williams overcame Jankovic in New York to temporarily regain the No. 1 ranking.

6. 1999. 41-7, 5 titles (1)

Where it all began. As a 17-year-old, Williams won her first major at the US Open, downing world No. 4 Monica Seles, No. 2 Davenport and No. 1 Martina Hingis.

"Those serves were, like, smacking," Hingis told reporters. They still are.

Williams, however, did more than conquer New York; only twice has she collected more than five titles in a season.

5. 2010. 25-4, 2 titles (2)

A foot injury sidelined Williams post Wimbledon, and so used to coming back in encounters, Williams failed to take advantage of a match point against Stosur at the French Open. That left a bitter taste.

Sweeter: Williams won in Melbourne for the fifth time and didn't concede a set at SW19.

4. 2009. 50-12, 3 titles (2)

Williams' most eventful Grand Slam year -- and it wasn't solely about the US Open, when she lashed out at a linesperson following a foot fault call.

In trouble against Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open, dizziness and illness forced Azarenka to retire. A round later, Svetlana Kuznetsova was convinced that had organizers not closed the roof during her match against Williams (due to extreme heat), she'd have won. Williams then cruised in the semis and final. Kuznetsova, though, held her nerve to oust Williams in a three-set thriller at the French Open.

Williams recovered about a month later, but only just, saving a match point in the semifinals en route to further glory at Wimbledon.

3. 2012. 58-4, 7 titles (2)

First half, not great. Second half, virtually unstoppable.

An ankle injury hindered Williams at the Australian Open, and the aura seemed to be fading when an emotional Williams blew a lead against Virginie Razzano at the French Open.
What a response.

Williams hired Patrick Mouratoglou and subsequently went 31-1. Following Wimbledon, she surrendered three sets.

No wonder Williams can't wait for January and the Australian Open.

2. 2003. 38-3, 4 titles (2)

Williams extended her 2002 form, landing a maiden Australian Open title to complete the 'Serena Slam.' She had to work for it: Williams was tested in the first round by Emilie Loit, overturned a 5-1, third-set deficit against Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and beat Venus as they met in a fourth consecutive Grand Slam final. Williams started the season 21-0 and later repeated at the All England Club.

Her French Open ended at the hands of Henin -- literally -- and a knee injury shut Williams down after Wimbledon.

Tragedy struck in September when Williams' oldest sister, Yetunde Price, was murdered in California. "It was a real dark period in my life," Williams said in 2009. "I went through depression."

1. 2002. 56-5, 8 titles (3)

Williams at the summit.

No one could deny her at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and French Open. Yes, the French. She's still seeking No. 2 at Roland Garros.

Why didn't Williams achieve the calendar year Grand Slam? An ankle injury sustained at a warm-up event forced Williams to skip the Australian Open.