If healthy, Serena should win title

Originally Published: November 13, 2004
By Pam Shriver | Special to ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- With Serena Williams' victory against Amelie Mauresmo, she not only reached the final but also assisted Lindsay Davenport in finishing the year as the No. 1 player.

Even though Davenport didn't reach the final here, she had a dominant year as she won more tournaments than anyone else this season. To win four in a row this summer was just outstanding. Only the best of the best finish more than one year as the No. 1 player; Davenport has done it three times. Although she doesn't have six, seven or eight Grand Slam titles, she is an Olympic gold medalist and a three-time major winner. It's a spectacular career for someone who started off out-of-shape and insecure with herself on the court. This year of success, when she had begun thinking about retirement, came as she finally regained her health and attitude.

Those are two things likely to play a factor in the WTA Tour Championships final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova on Monday night.

This will be a rematch of the Wimbledon final and the two most promoted names coming into this event. Even though Williams hasn't seen the success of past years, she's still a draw, while Sharapova is the glamorous Wimbledon winner.

Williams' match against Mauresmo was particularly grueling. Another tough semifinal two years ago cost Williams the final against Kim Clijsters, so we'll see if her whole body -- especially her knee and elbow -- holds up. Williams has had the toughest week, starting opening night against Anastasia Myskina.

Certainly, Williams doesn't want to lose to Sharapova again in another big final. If Williams doesn't recover physically in the approximately 28 hours before the final, then Sharapova has enough belief and talent to win.

In the beginning of her semifinal with Myskina, Sharapova looked flat and tired, but then she rallied emotionally. It was another impressive performance from the 17-year-old. She had a surprisingly successful year, jumping from No. 32 to No. 6 in rank.

It should be a good final -- both players move and serve well. They are coming to the net. Because the surface has been slow -- even though it's harder on the players -- it has offered up good tennis so far. Given all that, as long as Williams is healthy, she should win the Championship and $1 million dollars.

ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles.

A top player on the women's tennis tour more than 15 years, Pam Shriver hosts ESPN's women's tennis telecasts. She also appears as a sideline reporter on select men's matches.