Wimbledon: Serena gunning for 24th slam against consistent Halep

Serena Williams reached her 11th Wimbledon final with an easy win against Barbora Strycova and will be up against Simona Halep who looks stronger than ever.

Serena Williams beat Simona Halep at the Australian Open recently, but Wimbledon has been a different story for the Romanian.   -  Getty Images

Serena Williams is one win away from a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title after a 59-minute 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Barbora Strycova in the semifinal on Thursday. She hit 28 winners to Strycova’s eight, won 24 of 27 first-serve points and 13 of 16 at the net in her most commanding performance at this year’s championship.

Standing in her way in Saturday’s summit clash will be the 2018 French Open champion Simona Halep, who dominated the match against a nervous Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-3. The two matches were far from engaging, but for Serena and Halep they were the best routes to the final.

On paper, Halep-Svitolina looked the closer match-up, separated as they were by just one ranking spot – Halep’s 7 to Svitolina’s 8 – and locked at a head-to-head of 4-4. But Svitolina, despite not being a stranger to winning big titles like she proved at the 2018 WTA Finals, seemed overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion – this was her first Slam semifinal – and was no match to Halep’s unwavering consistency.

The first few games were tight and tense, with long exchanges. But Halep was the one with superior focus and lasting power and she didn’t allow Svitolina a single hold. In the second set, after a few sedate games, Halep broke twice from 3-3 to run away with the match.

“It is one of the best moments of my life,” said Halep, for whom it will be the third Major final and first at SW19. “It was not as easy as the scoreline. But I was prepared to fight for every ball.” No wonder she won 25 of 32 points which lasted nine shots or more.

READ | 'Not about 24' for Serena Williams

Serena-Strycova, which followed on Centre Court, appealed tactically, but there was little doubt as to whose racquet it rested on. Strycova was different to the players Serena had faced until then. At 33, the Czech was the oldest first-time Grand Slam women’s singles semifinalist in the Open Era and had got there by following her serve to the net, playing the slices, keeping the balls low and denying opponents pace.

From the outset, Serena was on the prowl for the early, point-ending shot to stop Strycova from displaying her craft. She broke twice in succession, in games four and six. Two points in that phase stood out. At 2-4, 15-15, Strycova attempted a drop with such underspin that the ball seemed set to die instantly. But Serena’s anticipation and footwork got her to it and she executed a remarkable down the line drive. An inch-perfect one-the-run backhand pass earned the double break. Serena, it seemed, was everywhere.

READ | Serena focused on being the best ahead of final

At 2-2 in the second set, she stepped it up again. Strycova was up 30-15, but a crosscourt forehand winner earned the 2018 finalist a look. The World No.54 crumbled, serving a double fault and backing it up with a sliced error. At 2-4 and a break point down, she missed an easy forehand volley and let out a loud shriek. The resistance had snapped and Serena was soon in her 11th Wimbledon final.

The Results

Women's Singles Semifinals

Serena Williams 6-1, 6-2 beat Barbora Strycova

Simona Halep 6-1, 6-3 beat Elina Svitolina

Men's Doubles Semifinals

Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nicolas Mahut 6-2, 7-6(9-7), 7-6(7-2) beat Filip Polasek and Ivan Dodig

Mixed-Doubles Quarterfinals

Yang Zhaoxuan and Matwe Middelkoop 6-4, 6-3 beat Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar