Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Simona Halep’s Stunning Performance Dominates Serena Williams for Second Major Title
By Thomas Cluck
(July 13, 2019) There were clouds, a rare sighting at The Championships 2019, hovering above the most famous tennis court in the world, Centre Court, on Saturday afternoon in SW19. But no one was higher up than Romania’s Simona Halep, soaring on Cloud Nine as she soaked up and savored a superb performance fitting of another galaxy to dismantle 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in under an hour to win her second major title, her first here at Wimbledon.
“Have you ever played a better match?”
“Never,” said Halep.
It was a dream just to be there, to play the final of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, to play on the hallowed grass courts of the All England Club in front of a Royal Box featuring the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. It was her mother’s dream for her for so long, and now Simona Halep was living it.
“It’s something very special, and I will never forget this day because it was my mom’s dream,” commented a jubilant, over the moon Halep during the trophy ceremony. “When I was about 10, 12, she said that if I want to do something in tennis, I have to play the final of Wimbledon so the day came. So to my mom, thanks.”
It was a dream start for Halep, who won her first Grand Slam last year at the French Open after three prior near-misses in finals, breaking her seasoned opponent, a seven-time Wimbledon champion in her own right, and racing out to a 4-0 double break lead before the entire Royal Box had even filled in.
The dream never ended, she never woke up, playing the best match of her entire career on grass to absolutely render Williams helpless, combining her trademark baseline consistency and crosscourt groundstroke brilliance with some increased aggression down the line and some unthinkable defensive gets. Simona Halep was on Cloud Nine after the match, but she was truly out of this world during it.
Halep did something so few have ever been able to do against the legendary Williams, quite possibly the greatest tennis player of all time,: she made Serena’s greatest strengths, her power and her serve, non-existent on the court. Halep put on a tactical masterclass to defuse the forceful, power game of Williams, reading the serve, neutralizing it on the return, and turning defense into her own offense on the next shots to simply stun Serena.
“I had nerves. My stomach was not very well before the match but I knew that there is no time for emotions. I just came on court and gave my best,” assessed Simona.
“She literally played out of her mind. Congratulations, Simona,” said a gracious Williams. “You know, it was a little bit of deer in headlights for me, so whenever a player plays that amazing, you just kind of have to take your hat off and give them a nod on the head, so congrats on all the hard work.”
For Serena, the confusion, frustration, pain, and agony at once again missing out- and once again not really coming close- in a major final to get the record-tying 24th major title will linger for quite some time as it did following her beat down at Wimbledon a year ago to Angelique Kerber in the final and later last year to Naomi Osaka at the US Open.
Despite being drawn once again into the toughest quarter of the women’s draw – dubbed the “group of death” – two weeks ago and coming into the third major of the season with just nine match wins on the year following a lingering knee injury and multiple retirements and embarrassing losses, Williams still managed to play her way into form in this tournament, beating the players in front of her- not facing a top 15 player en route to the final and no taking advantage of an open draw as the top seeds and big names around her all fell as the fortnight rolled on. Williams did everything she could to put herself in position for her first title since coming back to tennis after giving birth in September of 2017, but for the third time it just wasn’t good enough. The day of the final, once again just wasn’t her day.
“Just gotta keep fighting and just keep trying. I mean, I’m enjoying the sport. I love coming out here, playing in front of you guys. It’s literally a joy, so yeah, it’s been really fun,” commented Williams.
For Halep, the win is a legacy-cementing one, adding the Venus Rosewater Dish to her 2018 French Open trophy to become a two-time major champion, a former world No. 1, and now almost surely a lock for the Tennis Hall of Fame. But beyond all that, it was pure joy, jubilation, elation, and simple happiness for Simona, a simple, very, very good tennis player. And she couldn’t have asked for any more.
While Halep stunned the tennis world and apparently herself with her sublime performance on Saturday, eight-time champion Roger Federer will somehow be looking to pull the upset as well against top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, albeit a much smaller one given their one and two seedings and their 15 and 20 major titles respectively that separate them. Coming off a strong, mentally tough performance against his biggest rival and nemesis Rafael Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon winner and 18-time major champion in his own right, Federer will be looking to harness the big match mentality and energy utilized to surge through three superb sets and knock off Djokovic, who has been untested while looking untouchable at the same time this tournament.
Having faced off in two memorable and epic finals here on Centre Court back in 2014 and 2015 with Djokovic holding Federer off in both, expectations will be high for a match up between the two best fast-court players in the world, both looking to play their respectives games, be aggressive on the serve, and get the crucial first strike in.
For Djokovic, the Serbian will be looking to dictate play off the back of a first serve being hit bigger and harder than ever before in his career this fortnight, establishing supremacy in the rallies against his Swiss rival early with a strong serve and controlling play from a strong, aggressive baseline position.
A four-time Wimbledon champion, Djokovic will look to open up the court with his often underrated forehand and stretch Federer on the baseline, allowing himself to finish points with his trademark backhand. Finally, Djokovic should force the issue of one of Federer’s biggest question marks going into this final, the movement and energy, looking to elongate rallies and test the 37 year-old’s fitness early off the back of the draining four-set victory over Nadal on Friday.
Besides those questions about Federer’s endurance following yesterday’s semifinal contest, the biggest key for the Swiss legend will be dominating the match with his serve, something he did masterfully in the previous round to outgun Nadal there. A big, precise serving performance will be the biggest weapon Federer has to flummox Djokovic, hitting his spots and taking away the Serb’s greatest weapon, his own return game.
Federer will also look to avoid the crosscourt backhand to backhand rallies with Djokovic and instead take his own backhand up the line and early to get on the front foot in points. If Federer can do this, it sets up his beauty of a forehand, a weapon that can add that extra finishing touch to the always impressive Federer serve and get him over the top in this match to a ninth Wimbledon trophy.