WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - Simona Halep was not focused on trying to prevent Serena Williams from winning a 24th Grand Slam title. All Halep cared about was winning Wimbledon for the first time.
Pretty much perfect from start to finish, Halep beat Williams 6-2, 6-2 in stunning fashion in the final at the All England Club on Saturday.
The whole thing took less than an hour.
Halep made a mere three unforced errors, a remarkably low total and 23 fewer than Williams.
This is the third consecutive Grand Slam final lost by Williams as she tries to equal Margaret Court with 24 major trophies, the highest total in tennis history. Williams was the runner-up to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon a year ago, and to Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open last September.
The 37-year-old American hasn’t won a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, when she set the professional-era record of 23 Grand Slam championships (Court won 13 of her titles against amateur competition). Williams was pregnant when she won in Australia and then took more than a year off the tour; her daughter, Olympia, was born in September 2017.
Since returning to tennis, Williams has dealt with injuries but still managed to remain among the game’s elite.
Didn’t take long on Saturday for Halep to demonstrate this was not going to be easy for Williams.
Not by any means.
Showing off the talents and traits that lifted her to No. 1 in the rankings and four previous Grand Slam finals — but only one previous major title, at last year’s French Open — Halep got off to an impossibly perfect start.
She tracked down everything, as is her wont. She didn’t merely play defense, though, managing to go from retrieving an apparent point-ending stroke by Williams to lashing a winner of her own in a blink.
Her returns were exceptional, repeatedly getting back serves that left Williams’ racket at 115 mph or more. That was a key aspect of this matchup, given that Halep came in having won 53% of her opponents’ service games during the fortnight, while Williams had 45 aces.
On this cloudy, cool afternoon, with the temperature in the low 70s (low 20s Celsius), Halep began with a pair of service breaks and even delivered the match’s first ace, at 106 mph, which put her out front after 11 astonishing minutes.
Halep won 14 of the first 18 points. She produced eight winners before a single unforced error, avoiding a miscue until the seventh game.
Williams, in stark contrast, came out looking a bit tight, short-arming shots and accumulating nine unforced errors before conjuring up a single winner. She spoke after her semifinal victory about trying to remain calm on court, and that she did, even in the face of a player who was at her very best.
So Williams would place a hand on her hip. Or put a palm up and look at her guest box, as if thinking, “What can I do?” Williams’ greatest show of emotion came after she stretched for a forehand volley winner on the second set’s second point. She leaned forward and yelled, “Come on!”
But the comeback never came. Halep broke to lead 3-2 in that set when Williams pushed a backhand long, and there wasn’t much left from there.