Simona Halep collected her first Wimbledon title hammering the favored 7-time champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in just 56 minutes. It was a jaw-dropping performance of perfection from Halep in giving Serena one of her worst career losses not just on grass but also in a Slam final.
“It feels good,” Halep said. “I wanted this badly. When I started the tournament, I talked to the people from the locker room that my dream is to become a member here. So today it’s real and I’m really happy.
“I’m very sure that was the best match of my life, and also on grass against her is never easy. So I’m really proud of my game of today and the whole tournament.”
Serena was bidding once again to win a 23rd career Major and tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. And she had a big 9-1 lead over Halep in their head-to-head, only losing back at the 2014 WTA Singapore Finals, a loss Serena quickly avenged later that week.
But today was a different story, a different Halep who dominated in all phases of the game.
“She just played great. So I don’t think it’s a surprise for anyone to play great against me,” Serena said.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done differently. I think I gave a great effort for this fortnight. Again, I just think Simona just played her heart out. If anything, I could just learn to be like that.”
Right from the start, Halep was handling Serena’s big serve with ease and she was tracking down just about every ball, forcing Serena into overhitting and spraying errors. Halep quickly and confidently built a 4-0 lead.
In the second, Serena would make a push, holding then letting out one of her patented massive screams. She got up 15-30 on Halep’s serve and with momentum maybe shifting, the crowd noise rising, Halep slammed the door to level.
Halep eventually broke Serena for 4-2 then cruised to the win. The best of her career.
“I knew that I have to be aggressive, being 100% for every ball, that I don’t have to let her come back to the match because she’s so powerful and so strong,” Halep said. “She knows how to manage every moment. So I knew that I have to stay there, which I did pretty well today.
“Today I just went for it like in Singapore. I had that image in my head. I really believed there is the chance to do the same thing. I knew I have to stay there every ball. Otherwise, when she comes back, she’s very powerful.”
The smaller Halep actually outserved the more powerful Serena winning 83% of her points on first serve while Serena won just 59% on her first delivery. She also finished with 13 winners to only 3 unforced errors. Serena had 17 winners but 26 unforced errors and couldn’t compete with the speedy Halep when the points went long.
Since returning from childbirth, Serena has now lost her last three Slam finals (in straight sets) and now as she nears 38, will she ever get to 24? This week, she had a great draw and at least in the last few matches, appeared to be in form and healthy.
“I just was trying different things. Today nothing really helped, but I also made way too many errors for a lot of stuff to work,” Serena said.
“I think she was getting so many balls back. I do have a strategy for players that do get a lot of balls back, which I thought about far too late. I think I was overhitting it, trying to go for too much. She was getting just a tremendous amount of balls back.
“I just have to figure out a way to win a final. Maybe it is playing other finals outside of Grand Slams would be really helpful just to kind of get in the groove so by the time I get to a Grand Slam final I’m kind of used to what to do and how to play.”
Halep becomes the first Romanian to win a Wimbledon title. She now has Slam victories at the French and at Wimbledon, missing only hardcourt wins in New York and Melbourne. And with three different Slam champions in the women’s tour this year, who’ll take the US Open and finish the year No. 1? In women’s tennis, it’s “what have you done for me lately?” Right now, that’s Halep.
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