Serena Williams’ quest for an all-time record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles titles imploded on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Saturday, as Simona Halep broke the seven-time champion twice in each set for a 6-2, 6-2 win in just 55 minutes. Here's the match report.
Simona Halep: "No, have never played a better match in my career. It's something very special and I'll never forget this day. It was my mum's dream when I was about 10. The day came. Yes, I had nerves, my stomach was not very well. But I knew there was no time for emotions and I had to do my best."
Simona Halep said one of her motivations to win Wimbledon was to get life membership of the club.
"I worked (to play on grass) to change my game, it wasn't easy." And she gets excited when she finds out she willl be going to the royal box and meet everyone from the royal family!
Serena Williams: "No idea what I could have done today. She (Simona Halep) literally played out of her mind so congratulations to her."
7:35 pm: SIMONA HALEP WINS HER MAIDEN WIMBLEDON TITLE!
Serena hits her forehand wide and Halep sinks to her knees. That was an emphatic as defeat of Serena Williams and she didn't let the American get her rhythm. A well deserved win and a one-sided affair.
7:30 pm: Simona Halep breaks Serena Williams again! And she will now serve for the championship.
Halep is moving so well across and baseline and Serena isn't moving like we know she can. Halep is picking her winner with ease and so precisely that Serena isn't even trying to get to the return.
7:27 pm: And Halep takes a 4-2 lead.
7:29 pm: Halep breaks! She has two break points and she forces Serena to run to the net with a running backhand. The American picks force over placement and she goes long. Halep leads 3-2.
STAT: Halep has 10 winners and 3 unforced errors. Serena has 13 winners but 18 unforced errors.
7:21 pm: And now it is Halep's turn to hold to love. It is 2-2 in the second set. That is six service games and six service holds for Halep.
Last year, Kerber was able to find errors in Serena and this year Halep is doing it. The Romanian is everywhre as she chases every single return, which is forcing Serena to think hard to win a point. The 27-year-old is on song!
7:17 pm: Serena Williams has found her game. I think. She manages to hold to love to lead 2-1 in the second set.
7:14 pm: Halep holds and makes it 1-1.
At 30-15, Serena's nets her return to make it 30-30. Than she hits a forehand long and sends another wide to give Halep the game.
7:11 pm: And Serena starts the second set by taking the first game. Good start from her and she celebrates it with a roar!
A volleyed winner at the net and a backhand cross-court return and a forehand down the line. That's the ebst of Serena all in one game. And the first time we have seen this side of her in this match.
7:06 pm: SIMONA HALEP SEALS THE FIRST SET 6-2!
She gets two set points when Serena's return goes long. The American saves the first but the goes long with a forehand return to give the set to Halep.
7:01 pm: A love hold for Serena but Halep still leads 5-2.
6:59 pm: Serena Williams had a break point but Simona Halep saves it and takes a 5-1 in just 20 minutes.
Serena's forehands keeps Halep well behind the baseline and then the American races allowing her to advance and get an easy volleyed winner. She tries to do it again but the Romanian reads it and crosscourt backhand passing winner makes it 15-15. Serena goes 15-30 up and Halep replies with her serve to go level. Serena's forehand takes the game to deuce and then to break point. But she goes wide with a return and then an ace gives Halep the advantage. An exquisite forehand seals the game for her.
6:53 pm: Serena Williams win her first game of the match! She finally makes a mark on the scoreboard. And she does it by holding to love. Finally found her serve?
6:51 pm: Halep takes a 4-0 lead in 11 minutes!
Serena goes wide a little too often and Halep races to a 40-30 lead and the Romanian seals the game it with an ace. What a start for Halep. Had several scenarios in mind for the game but this just was not.
6:48 pm: Halep breaks again! She has raced to a 3-0 lead in just eight minutes.
Halep goes 30-15 up on Serena’s serve. The American's first serve takes her to 30-30 but gives Halep another break point by sending a forehand wide. Halep then seals the game with a backhand winner.
6:44 pm: Halep on a roll. She takes the second game too, leads 2-0 in the first set.
Is Serena not at her best or has Halep playing much better? Either way, Halep holds to love with a fantastic backhand winner that lands on the baseline.
6:42 pm:Simona Halep breaks in the first game! That's the 12th time she has been broken in this tournament.
Serena serves and Halep nets her forehand on the first point. She then responds with a running crosscourt forehand winner on the following point. The two share the next two points before Serena nets this time to give Halep a breakpoint. And with Serena hitting her forehand wide, Halep takes the first game!
* Serena Williams won 21 of her first 25 Grand Slam finals — or 84%. Since then, she’s won 2 out 6 — 33%.
* Serena Williams, at 37 years and 291 days, is the oldest WTA Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era. She's already the oldest WTA Grand Slam champion in the Open Era (35yrs, 125 days, '17 AO), but she can break that record with a win in today's final.
* Simona Halep is one of only nine players who have bagelled Serena Williams. Can she get one today?
* THROWBACK: Back in 2011, Serena Williams had to come back from a set down in the second round to defeat a spirited 19-year-old Simona Halep.
Fun fact: That was Simona Halep’s first loss to Serena Williams at Wimbledon. The American was seeded 7 at the time. And this year, Simona is seeded 7.
* After fulfilling mother's dream, Halep chases her own
A game that was honed on the sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast of Constanta will be on show for the world to savour in Saturday's Wimbledon final as Simona Halep earned a chance to fulfil one of her mother's cherished dreams.
So what if the opponent facing her is an American great in pursuit of a record 24th Grand Slam title? Who cares if the Romanian has won only one of her previous 10 meetings with Serena Williams?
As far as Halep was concerned, her 6-1 6-3 semi-final win over Elina Svitolina meant that her mother Tania will finally get to experience something she has been dreaming of for more than a decade.
“About 10, 15 years ago she said her dream is to (see me) play a final in Wimbledon because everyone is here, (including the royals and the celebrities who sit in) the Royal Box (on Centre Court),” said a beaming Halep.
“She said it would be an unbelievable moment.
“So today her dream came true as I will play a final. It's a very special moment. To be able to play Wimbledon final, it's pretty amazing. I will enjoy for sure.”
Considering Halep developed her baseline skills “on the sand and also in the water of the sea”, it is perhaps unsurprising that she was initially considered something of a claycourt specialist. The French Open has been her most successful major with three final appearances - including a win in 2018.
But her run to the Wimbledon final not only proved that her game is no longer one-dimensional as it was in the past, when she would only venture off the baseline as a last resort, but that she also has the weapons to make an impact on the sport's slickest surface.
“I have a better game these days. I play some drop shots,” said Halep, who came out on top in eight of the 10 net points she was engaged in on Thursday.
— Not Scared —
“I use the slice more. The serve is helping me. Now when the ball is coming to me, I know what to do with it.
“I can play everywhere, against anyone. I know how to change some things when (things) don't work very well,” added Halep, who would have contested Grand Slam finals on three different surfaces come Saturday as she also finished runner-up at the Australian Open in 2018.
“I feel confident and I'm not scared any more about how the ball bounces. And also I feel stable on my legs, which is very important on the grass.”
Being more sure-footed on turf means the Romanian, who admits she is a lover of chocolate, ice cream and cheesecake, cannot wait to turn up for Saturday's final.
“It's a great feeling to face Serena in a Grand Slam final,” said the 27-year-old.
“I'm desperate to win Wimbledon more than to stop her. I will focus on myself. I'm not thinking about her record. Her records are huge already.
“If you are able to win, makes it sweeter.”
And should Halep triumph, her mother may well get the chance to sit in the Royal Box next year -- considering the All England Club invites the parents of title holders to see their opening match from a seat that money cannot buy.
* Serena focused on being the best
Serena Williams never forgets her losses. Asked to reflect on her past duels with Simona Halep ahead of Saturday’s Wimbledon final, she didn’t pick any of the nine victories, but chose the solitary defeat, back in 2014 at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Halep had thrashed Serena 6-0, 6-2 in the round robin stage. It didn’t matter that Serena returned the favour within days, bagel included, in the final. The defeat is still the point of reference, as she looks to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Majors.
“The key in our matches is that loss,” the 37-year-old said.
“She played unbelievable. That tells me that the level she played at, she can get there again. So, I have to be better than that.”
Apart from providing a fascinating insight into how Serena prepares for her biggest matches, it was indicative of her calm but crystal-clear thinking. With the body in sync – this is the fittest she has looked since returning from maternity break at the 2018 French Open – Serena seems primed for the success that eluded her in the finals at Wimbledon and US Open last year.
“Looking back, to even be in those finals last year was unbelievable,” she said. “Now I am in a different place. I just am more calm. Instead of having nothing to lose, I feel like I have things to lose. I really want to do it. It is not really about 24 or 23 or 25. It’s really about giving my best effort no matter what.”
For Halep it will be the ultimate test, but there are signs that she has started embracing such enormous challenges. She always had the tennis; someone who made a French Open final and Wimbledon semifinal back-to-back (2014) is not to be trifled with. But questions about her mental make-up abounded as she struggled to back that up with a breakthrough at a Major.
The 2018 French Open, where she won her maiden title, has changed things and she is quietly confident. It has reflected on the court this past two weeks, as she has repeatedly cut to size formidable opponents. The 27-year-old has moved as well as anybody on grass and on current form appears best placed to stonewall Serena’s incredible ability to hit through the court.
“Compared to 2014, I have more experience and I am positive,” Halep said. “I don’t give up anymore. Right now, I am the best version of myself and feel stronger mentally. It’s a great feeling to face Serena in a Slam final. If you are able to win, it makes it sweeter. I am desperate to win Wimbledon more than stopping her [from getting the record].”
* A look at the records of Serena Williams and Simona Halep (prefix number denotes seeding):
WTA Ranking: 10 (Highest ranking: 1)
Grand Slam titles: 23 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016; U.S. Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)
2018 Wimbledon performance: Runner-up
Best Wimbledon performance: Winner (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
Sets dropped at Wimbledon 2019: 2
Since winning her last Grand Slam title in Australia in 2017, Williams has reached two more major finals -- at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- and failed in her quest to win a record-equalling 24th major singles crown.
However, she goes into Saturday's Wimbledon final with a stellar record against Halep, having lost to the Romanian only once in 10 meetings between the pair back in 2014.
WTA Ranking: 7 (Highest ranking: 1)
Grand Slam titles: 1 (French Open 2018)
2018 Wimbledon performance: Third round
Best Wimbledon performance: Final (2019)
Sets dropped at Wimbledon 2019: 1
Halep has yet to win a title in 2019 but has been in menacing form at Wimbledon, even though grass is not her favourite surface.
The counter-puncher has stuck to her clay-court strengths on the grass and dictated play from the baseline to reach her first Grand Slam final since winning the French Open last year.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: SERENA WILLIAMS LEADS 9-1
Last five meetings —
2019: Williams d Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 (Australian Open, hard)
2016: Williams d Halep 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 (U.S. Open, hard)
2016: Williams d Halep 6-4, 6-3 (Indian Wells, hard)
2015: Williams d Halep 6-3, 7-6(5) (Cincinnati, hard)
2015: Williams d Halep 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 (Miami, hard)
* Today's order of play: [All Center Court]
Women's singles final: Serena Williams (U.S.) vs Simona Halep (Romania)
Men's doubles final: Nicolas Mahut & Edouard Roger-Vasselin (both France) vs Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah (both Colombia)
Women's doubles final: Hsieh Su-wei (Taiwan) & Barbora Strycova (Czech Republic) vs Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) & Xu Yifan (China)
* Serena Williams goes for her 24th Grand Slam title when she faces Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final today. Williams is already a seven-time champion at the All England Club while Halep is appearing in her first final at Centre Court. Her only major championship came at the French Open last year.
Williams has beaten Halep nine times in their 10 previous matches. If Williams wins this one, she will equal Margaret Court’s record for most Grand Slam singles titles. But Court won 13 of her major trophies before professionals were admitted to Grand Slam tournaments, while all 23 of Williams’ major titles have come in the Open era, which began in 1968.