Williams capped a career year in style Sunday, earning her 11th title by coming from behind to beat Li Na 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 for her second straight WTA Championships crown.
Li was in her first WTA Championships final and will finish the year at a career-high No. 3.
The final featured two players above the age of 30 for the first time in the championships’ 43-year history. Williams is 32 and Li is 31 but both are playing some of their best tennis.
Li got off to a better start over a sluggish-looking Williams, who struggled a day earlier to beat Jelena Jankovic and complained later of being exhausted after a long season.
“I felt good this morning, much better than I did yesterday, but then in practice I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I was a little worried, but I just hung in there and just kept going and going,” Williams said.
The Chinese player was quick to break serve for a 2-1 lead and rolled through the first set, which ended with Williams netting a forehand and hitting a backhand passing shot wide.
Li blasted an ace, her only one of the match, to level at 3-3. But she produced a double-fault and a forehand error to give Williams a chance to serve out the set. Williams needed three set points to close it out.
It was another double-fault by Li that gave Williams a break of serve at the start of the third and the American pulled away.
Williams did have to save five break points, the last one with her sixth ace, before wrapping up the title.
Li, the 2011 French Open champion, fell to 1-10 against Williams. She lost a set at 6-0 for the second straight time they played. She won only three games in her loss to Williams in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
“I have a little bit bad taste, because it’s at love, but I still feel more positive things,” Li said.
After three years in Istanbul, the tournament moves to Singapore for the next five years.