ISTANBUL — Her year filled with titles and trophies over, Serena Williams can at last admit it: This was a title she had her eye on.
Not that any more evidence of her all-consuming, powerful game was needed, but Williams gave it anyway. She dismissed Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 Sunday to win the WTA Championships for the third time and finish the year with another title, but not the top ranking.
"Now that I can be honest, I really wanted to win," Williams said. "I wanted it so bad, but I didn't want to say it. ... It was really important for me to end the year with this title in particular."
Williams ended the year with a 59-4 record and seven titles. Since her first-round loss at the French Open, she is 31-1, winning Wimbledon, the Olympic gold medal and the U.S. Open.
The 31-year-old Williams became the oldest player to capture the year-end championships. But she will finish the year ranked No. 3, behind No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and No. 2 Sharapova, because she did not play as well in the first half of the year. Azarenka lost to Sharapova in the semifinals.
"I had such a good year, it was important to end on a good note," Williams said. "It was good for my sanity to win. I really wanted it although I didn't need it."
In 2001 and '09 Williams also won the elite, year-end tournament that brings together the world's top eight players.
A fist-pumping Williams closed the first set with an ace, one of 11 she had in the match. The American broke serve to start the second and was never threatened again. Williams hit a powerful return on her first match point. She finished with 40 winners to Sharapova's 13.
"Today she had another great serving day against me," said Sharapova, who never had a break point.
Williams finished the tournament without dropping a set. She also beat Azarenka in round-robin play, one of her four wins against the No. 1 player this year.
"If I'm playing well and doing everything right, it's pretty difficult to beat me, without trying to sound too full of myself," Williams said. "And I hate to lose."
She has won 12 straight against opponents ranked No. 1 or No. 2 and has not lost to a player ranked in the top 2 since 2007.
Williams was not her mighty self early in the year following injuries and illness. Shortly after winning Wimbledon two years ago, she cut her foot on glass at a restaurant, leading to a series of health problems, including hospitalization for blood clots in her lungs. She also injured her ankle at the start of the year in Brisbane, Australia.
Williams last finished the year as No. 1 in 2009. She has held the No. 1 ranking for 123 weeks.