Having, with much amusement, read through the myriad of subjective and for the most part reasonable opinions on the subject matter at hand, I think it is befitting if we now look at a comparison of the Serena Williams 2002 and 2012 tennis seasons from both a numerical and an analytical points of view.
At the foundation of the comparison, Serena competed in a total of 13 tournaments each of the 2002 and 2012 tennis seasons. However, unlike the 2002 season Serena in the 2012 season competed in four Fed Cup matches. In 2002 she played in a total of 61 matches, whereas, in 2012 she played in a total of 62 matches. In 2002 she was 3 - 0 against the World #1 ranked player, whereas, in 2012 she was 4 - 0 against the World #1 ranked player.
Numerically, the Serena Williams 2002 tennis season breaks down as follows:
Total Season Tournaments.........................13 Trn
Total Season matches played.........................61 matches
Total Season Win/Loss Percentage.................(56 - 5) = 92% (91.8)
Total Season Titles Won...........................8 Titles
Season Title Success..............................8/13 = 61.5%
Quality of Titles Won.............................(3 Grand Slams, 2 Tier I, 3 Tier II)
Season Top 10 ranked Win/Loss Percentage..........(18 - 2) = 90%
Season Top 5 ranked Win/Loss Percentage...........(10 - 0) = 100%.
Whereas, the numerical breakdown of the Serena Williams 2012 tennis season is as follows:
Total Season Tournaments..............................13 Trn
Total Season matches played...........................62 matches
Total Season Win/Loss percentage......................(58 - 4) = 93.5%
Total Season Titles Won............................... 7 Titles
Season Title Success...................................7/13 = 54% (53.8)
Quality of Titles Won............................(2 Grand Slams, 1 Tour Championship, 1 Olympic Gold Medal (Singles), 2 Tier I, 1 Tier II)
Season Top 10 Win/Loss Percentage......................(18 - 2) = 90%
Season Top 5 Win/Loss Percentage.......................(14 - 0) = 100%.
Clearly, those opinions opined in this thread in support of the idea that the Serena 2002 season was so superior to her 2012 season is not supported by the numerical evidence.
Analytically, the Serena Williams 2012 season is a greater season than her 2002 tennis season for the following reasons:
1. Greatness is a measurement against the level and greatness of competition at hand - the degree of difficulties to achieve a certain thing. In both the 2002 and the 2012 seasons Serena played 20 matches against top 10 ranked players and in both season she won (18 - 2)= 90% of those matches. But, in the 2002 season she was 10 - 0, including 3 - 0 against the World #1 ranked player, against World Top 5 ranked players. Whereas, in the 2012 season Serena went 14 - 0, including 4 - 0 against the World #1 ranked player, against the World Top 5 ranked players. [N.B: The notion that the level of competition in 2002 was greater than it was in 2012 is unsupported and is nothing but a myth].
2. The science of probabilities furnishes three principles of which practical use is made in the determination of the possibility of a certain event: (1) the law of certainty, (2) the law of simple probability, and (3) the law of compound probability. The use of these methods of probabilities makes possible the description of risk and difficulties in terms of mathematical values. As such, the Serena Williams of the 2002 season was 21 years young, whereas, the Serena Williams of the 2012 season was 31 years old
. Moreover, factor in the difficulties the specter of the injury propensity poses between the 21 years and 31 years old Serena:
2003 - Underwent left knee surgery on August 1 to repair a partial tear, withdrawing from all events after Wimbledon (incl. US Open, Tour Championships).
*[Had professional Psychological attention to deal with the 2003 murder of her oldest sister, finally came to terms with that tragedy by the time to the 2007 Australian Open, at which time she dedicated her win then to her late sister in her winners speech].
2004 - Returned to Tour after eight-month lay-off due to knee rehabilitation and had fourth straight Top 10 finish. San Diego (withdrew w/left knee inflammation). Charleston (withdrew prior to 3r w/left knee inflammation). Withdrew from Australian Open w/left knee rehabilitation.
2005 - After impressive run to sixth Grand Slam singles title, injury-plagued season resulted in first non-Top 10 finish since 1998. Paris [Indoors] (withdrew before QF w/GI illness), Dubai (ret. in SF vs. Jankovic w/right shoulder strain). Amelia Island (ret. in QF vs. Farina Elia w/left ankle sprain). Toronto (withdrew before 3r w/left knee pain). Withdrew from Roland Garros w/left ankle injury; did not qualify for Tour Championships for first time since 1998.
2006 - Nearly finished outside Top 100 for first time after injury-plagued season; fell 3r at Australian Open (l. to Hantuchova) then withdrew from all events until summer w/left knee injury (incl. Roland Garros, Wimbledon); on April 10, ranked outside Top 100 for first time since November 16, 1997; on July 10, fell to No.140 (down from No.11 at start of 2006); ended six-month layoff with three summer events, reaching SF at Cincinnati (l. to Zvonareva), SF at Los Angeles (l. to Jankovic; returned to Top 100 afterwards, having spent 18 weeks outside) and 4r at US Open (as WC, l. to No.1 Mauresmo in 3s); played only four events all year, lowest in Top 100 (next-lowest was V.Williams with six).
2007 - Charleston (ret. 2r w/right groin strain), Zürich (ret. 1r w/right adductor strain) and Tour Championships (ret. in first RR match w/left knee injury then withdrew from tournament). Missed all pre-US Open summer hardcourt events w/left thumb sprain (suffered at Wimbledon).
2008 - Rome (withdrew prior to match vs. Cornet w/back injury). Tour Championships (went 1-1 in RR stage then withdrew from event w/abdominal injury). Withdrew from Paris [Indoors], Antwerp and Dubai w/recovery from gum surgery, Los Angeles w/left knee injury and Moscow w/left ankle injury.
2009 - Paris [Indoors] (as top seed, withdrew prior to match vs. No.3 seed Dementieva w/right knee injury). Madrid (as No.2 seed, ret. vs. Schiavone w/right knee injury in 1r). Withdrew from Charleston w/left leg injury, and from Tokyo w/left knee and toe injury.
2010- Missed three months early in season w/left knee injury (withdrawing from Paris [Indoors], Dubai, Miami, Marbella and Charleston) and all post-Wimbledon events w/right foot injury (withdrawing from Istanbul, Cincinnati, Montréal, US Open, Tokyo, Beijing, Linz and WTA Championships).
2011 - Sensational summer results after year-long injury and illness lay-off (finishing No.12); missed first half of year w/right foot injury and PE (withdrew from Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros) but returned in June, going 4-2 during grass court season (reaching 2r at Eastbourne and 4r at Wimbledon) then compiling 18-1 record during summer hardcourt season, winning 38th and 39th WTA titles at Stanford (d. Bartoli in final) and Toronto (d. Stosur in final), reaching 2r at Cincinnati (withdrew prior to match vs. Stosur w/right toe injury aggravation) then reaching 17th Grand Slam final at US Open (l. to Stosur; now 13-4 in Grand Slam finals); withdrew from Tokyo and Beijing w/medical reasons.
No further amplification of this factor is warranted here as it is too obvious.
3. Although the number of titles Serena won in 2002 is numerically bigger than those she won in 2012, the titles she won in 2012 are of better quality that makes things almost even is this aspect. In terms of quality, including ranking points value, 1 Olympic Gold Medal (Singles) title plus 1 Tour Championship title is equivalent or greater to 1 Grand Slam Singles title. For example, the ranking system currently awards a total of 2000 points for Grand Slam title, but it offers a total of 2185 ranking points for combination of the Tour Championship title and the Olympic Gold Medal title.
4. Finally, that which goes towards the singularly most distinguishing aspect of the Serena Williams 2012 tennis season is the 2012 Olympics Tournament. Not merely the winning of the Olympic Singles Gold Medal provides Serena with a Career Golden Slam, but the 2012 Olympic Tournament was the singularly most dominated tournament by an individual player in the Opera Era of professional tennis. In 6 matches played for the Olympic Singles Gold Medal, including 5 matches against top 20 ranked players, Serena drops a mere 17 games to the titles, and she also puts on the display that which can be only describe as the highest tennis performance level in the history of the sport.
Therefore, numerically and analytically it appears that the Serena Williams 2012 season is probably her best tennis season ever.