In victory or defeat, this tennis season belonged to Serena Williams. She sparked global chatter throughout, chasing the Grand Slam all the way to the final Friday of the United States Open in September, when Roberta Vinci shockingly stopped her short.
But Williams, by her own choice, is not playing at the W.T.A. Finals this week in Singapore. In her absence, the elite tournament feels less like a fitting end to a fascinating season and more like a spectacle unto itself.
There is no sugarcoating Williams’s withdrawal.
“A terrible blow for the W.T.A.,” said Jo Durie, a former British player who is now a television analyst. “It does devalue the event.”
It remains unclear to what extent Williams’s decision was prompted by physical issues or how much the…