Serena Williams has missed out on finishing the year inside the World Top 10 by the barest of margins - a cruel new blow after her leanest season since 2006.
Serena will round out 2020 as the World No.11, slipping one place in the WTA’s final rankings update of the year.
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The 23-time grand slam champion looked set to remain at World No.10 before Aryna Sabalenka won the season-ending Linz Open for her third title of the year.
Sabalenka’s title meant she jumped above Serena by just 140 rankings points.
It’s the third time in the last four years that Serena has missed the season-ending Top 10 rankings.
2020 was a trying year for the American champion, failing to win a grand slam title for the third-consecutive year - the first time that has happened in her career.
Many felt this year would be Serena’s best opportunity to equal or break Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors, but despite the absence of a number of her biggest rivals (Ash Barty opted out of the French and US Opens), Serena remains stuck on 23.
The 39-year-old’s 23rd and most recent major came at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant.
This year is the first since 2006 that she failed to make a grand slam final and the recent near-misses will hurt.
After returning from giving birth to daughter Olympia, Williams reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open, both in 2018 and 2019.
Serena Williams’ grand slam drought continues
In 2020, however, she fell in three sets in the third round in Australia to China’s Wang Qiang while the cancellation of Wimbledon, where she is a seven-time winner, was another roadblock.
She lost to Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, before withdrawing from the French Open before her second-round clash.
Serena blamed an achilles injury suffered in her loss to Azarenka for her shock withdrawal from Roland Garros.
In New York, six of the world's top players opted not to play.
At Roland Garros, four of the leading 10 were missing - World No.1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty, US Open winner Naomi Osaka, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu as well as Swiss No.12 Belinda Bencic.
At 39, Serena is now 10 years older than the next oldest in the top 10, Simona Halep.
All around her are players with time on their side - Andreescu is 20, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin is 21 and Osaka, already a three-time major champion, is still just 22.
Meanwhile, Barty has clinched the year-end No.1 ranking for the second-consecutive year despite not playing since February.
With the introduction of new rankings rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barty was able to hang onto her points and remain at the top of the tree.
However French player Alize Cornet was among those to criticise the new system that allowed Barty to capitalise despite not playing a single match in nine months.
“Really @WTA?!? Big fan of Ash but come on,” she wrote on Twitter.
Season-ending WTA rankings
Ash Barty - 8717 points
Simona Halep - 7255
Naomi Osaka - 5780
Sofia Kenin - 5760
Elina Svitolina - 5260
Karolina Pliskova - 5205
Bianca Andreescu - 4555
Petra Kvitova - 4516
Kiki Bertens - 4505
Aryna Sabalenka - 4220
Serena Williams - 4080
Belinda Bencic - 4020
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