Simona Halep on Saturday won her first Wimbledon title with a dazzling display of tennis against Serena Williams.
Halep beat the 23-time major champion 6-2 6-2 in just 56 minutes to win her second Grand Slam singles trophy after triumphing at Roland Garros last year.
Incredibly, Halep trailed the pair’s head-to-head series 1-9 and had not beaten Williams since 2014.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2019
The former world No.1 played the perfect match, her relentless, controlled aggression contributing to 13 winners against just three unforced errors.
“She literally played out of her mind. Whenever a player plays that amazing you just have to take your hat off,” Williams said during the on-court trophy presentation.
Halep was then asked if she had ever played a better match.
“Never!” she laughed. “I had nerves; my stomach was not very well before the match (smiling). But I knew there is no time for emotions.
“I just came on court and gave my best.
"Have you ever played a better match than that?"
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2019
“It’s something very special, and I will never forget this day. Because it was my Mum’s dream, 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.”
Of her seven match victories at the All England Club this fortnight, three came over former top five players – Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Williams.
She is projected to return to the top five herself, rising three places to world No.4 when next week’s rankings are released.
Halep was helped on Saturday by a scratchy, nervous performance from Williams, who struggled to move her feet, lacked sting on her serve and groundstrokes, and committed 26 unforced errors in less than an hour of tennis.
Since returning to tennis after becoming a mother, the 37-year-old Williams has played in three Grand Slam finals – and lost them all in straight sets.
It is the first time in her career that she has lost three consecutive major finals, after also going down in the Wimbledon and US Open deciders last year.
From the very first point, it was clear that Halep was not going to be overawed by the occasion. Playing with precision, intensity and focus, she broke Williams immediately and dazzled the Centre Court crowd with her court speed en route to a 4-0 lead in 11 minutes.
— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) July 13, 2019
Williams got on the board in her third service game and received a rousing cheers; in the next gamed she leaned into some groundstrokes and was controlling the point, but Halep, retrieving tigerishly, eventually played a searing cross-court forehand winner on the stretch to push ahead 5-1.
Williams held for 5-2 in the next game, closing her eyes and breathing deeply and she walked to her chair.
But in the following game, Williams twice got on top of rallies only to be flummoxed when Halep got her racquet on the ball and dug it back; she was ill-prepared to play the next shot.
This is very nervy from Serena and as always, it translates into her footwork quickly. Rough patch again also with the serve like at the start.
— René Denfeld (@Renestance) July 13, 2019
With the first set in hand, Halep did not let up in the second.
For a player who has throughout her career been criticised for her negativity on court, and who herself has conceded she did not always fight for every ball, her positive body language was a revelation.
She outlasted Williams from the baseline in a series of rallies and pumped her fist after every one; the message it sent down to the other end of the court was resounding.
Halep broke for a 3-2 lead when Williams charged into net and sent a backhand long, and converted for 4-2 thanks to some powerful serving.
If Williams was ever going to come back into the match, it was during the seventh game; she held two game points and saved a break point in a tense game that featured three deuces. But errors again cost her, and Halep broke with a backhand winner down the line.
Leading 6-2 5-2, Halep did not drop a point as she served out the match.
Serena Williams: 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.#wimbledon
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 13, 2019
“At the beginning of the tournament I told to the people from the locker room that if I would win this tournament it’s gonna be amazing, because I would get (All England Club) membership for life,” Halep laughed on court.
“So here I am. It was one of my motivations for this tournament, so now I’m happy.”
29 April 2016
Victory was never out of the question when Bernard Tomic faced 17-time Grand Slam champion... More
23 February 2016
Tennis is a funny old game. People love you one minute and then want to drop you the next;... More
24 November 2016
Novak Djokovic is the fastest tennis player on the planet, according to new data from Tenn... More