| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff
Credit: Thomas Northcut

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced the 2009 winners of the Annual Player Awards during a special ceremony Wednesday at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Seven players were honored for their remarkable on and off court achievements during the 2009 season.

Serena Williams was voted the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s 2009 Player of the Year for the third time in her career, having previously earned the accolade for the 2002 and 2008 seasons. Serena had a stellar 2009 season, winning two Grand Slam singles titles (the Australian Open and Wimbledon), the prestigious year-end Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, and reaching the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Additionally, she was a semifinalist at five more Tour events and recorded 14 wins over Top 10 opponents during the season. Williams finished 2009 as the top ranked singles player in the world, marking the fifth time in her career she reached tops in the rankings.

Serena and Venus Williams won the Doubles Team of the Year award for their collective achievements in 2009, highlighted by winning four titles which included three Grand Slams (the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open) and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford. The pair ended the year with a 24-2 win-loss record.

“2009 was one of the best seasons of my career and winning the Player of the Year award for the third time is a great achievement for me,” said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour World number one-ranked Serena Williams. “2009 will always be memorable for me not just for my singles accomplishments, but because Venus and I won four titles together and I am thrilled to be sharing the Doubles Team of the Year award with my sister.”

“I love playing doubles with Serena as we have so much fun on the court together,” said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour World number five-ranked Venus Williams. “At the beginning of the 2009 season Serena and I decided to put a lot of emphasis on doubles and I am thrilled that we were able to achieve so much together.”

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty ImagesYanina Wickmayer, Belgium’s rising star, won the Most Improved Player award after a breakthrough season highlighted by capturing her first two Tour titles, the Estoril Open and the Generali Ladies Linz, and reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open (losing to Caroline Wozniacki). As a result of a great 2009 season, she broke into the World Top 20 during the week of October 19th. Additionally, she reached the finals in both singles and doubles (with Michaella Krajicek) at the Ordina Open.

Photo Credit: FILAComeback Player of the Year honors went to Belgium’s Kim Clijsters who made a sensational return to the Tour in August, reaching the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open (Cincinnati) in her first tournament back from retirement. She then went on to reach the third round at the Rogers Cup (Toronto) prior to embarking on a memorable run at the U.S. Open, winning her second Grand Slam singles title in only her third tournament back on Tour. Clijsters became the first wildcard in history, and the first mother since Evonne Goolagong’s Wimbledon triumph in 1980, to win a Grand Slam singles title.

In addition to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award, Clijsters was honored with her 7th Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, recognizing her conduct, attitude and sense of fair play. No player in Tour history has won the Sportsmanship Award more times than Clijsters.

American Melanie Oudin picked up the Tour’s Newcomer of the Year Award. Oudin’s first Top 50 season was highlighted by a breakthrough performance at Wimbledon where, as a qualifier, she reached the fourth round, defeating former World number one-ranked Jelena Jankovic. At the U.S. Open, Oudin reached the quarterfinals, defeating Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova and Maria Sharapova in successive three-set matches along the way. She rose to a career-high World No.42 during the week of Sept. 28.

The Player Service Award was won by Liezel Huber for the fourth time. A long-term member of the Player Council, Huber is one of the most respected members on Tour and works tirelessly on her fellow players’ behalf. Huber is the second player in the history of the Tour to win the Player Service Award four times (Nicole Pratt). Huber is devoted to charitable work and has been successful in getting her fellow players involved in such causes as raising money for victims of Hurricane Katrina and “Locks of Love”, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

The fans of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour voted online for their Favorite Singles and Doubles Players of the Year. Russia’s won the most votes for the Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year while Serena and Venus Williams ran away with the Fan Favorite Doubles Team of the Year honors.

"2009 was a truly memorable year on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, highlighted by amazing achievements on the court and excellence off the court,” said Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “I congratulate the winners for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the popularity of women’s tennis and thank them for making it the world’s premier global sport for women.”

“Once again, the stars of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour proved why women’s tennis is a hugely popular sport around the world,” said Aldo Liguori, Corporate VP and Head of Global Communications & PR, Sony Ericsson. “Sony Ericsson is proud to be associated with these world-class athletes.”

The winners of the annual player awards for Player of the Year, Doubles Team of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Newcomer of the Year are determined by the global tennis media, with Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players themselves selecting the winners of the Player Service and Sportsmanship Awards. The Fan Favorite Singles Player and Doubles Team are chosen by tennis fans voting on www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.

Additionally, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players voted on their favorite tournaments and chose the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells as their favorite Premier Event and the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC in Acapulco as their favorite International Event.

2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Player Awards

Player of the Year Serena Williams
Doubles Team of the Year Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Most Improved Player of the Year Yanina Wickmayer
Comeback Player of the Year Kim Clijsters
Newcomer of the Year Melanie Oudin
Player Service Liezel Huber
Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award  Kim Clijsters
Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year Elena Dementieva
Fan Favorite Doubles Team of the Year  Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Favorite Premier Tournament BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells)
Favorite International Tournament Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC in Acapulco