Halep’s vic­tory halts Wil­liams’ bid for 24th Grand Slam ti­tle

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY HOWARD FEN­DRICH

Clutch­ing her tro­phy 20 min­utes after be­com­ing Wim­ble­don’s cham­pion, Si­mona Halep checked out the board in­side Cen­tre Court that lists tour­na­ment win­ners. Be­low all of the men­tions of Ser­ena Wil­liams, her op­po­nent in Satur­day’s fi­nal, there al­ready was in­scribed: “Miss S. Halep.”

Halep was not con­cerned with pre­vent­ing Wil­liams from win­ning a 24th Grand Slam ti­tle. All Halep cared about was win­ning her first at the All Eng­land Club. And she played pretty much per­fectly.

On top of her game right from start to fin­ish, Halep over­whelmed Wil­liams 6-2, 6-2 in stun­ning fash­ion for her sec­ond ma­jor cham­pi­onship. The whole thing took less than an hour as Wil­liams lost her third Slam fi­nal in a row as she tries to equal Mar­garet Court’s record for most ma­jor tro­phies in ten­nis his­tory.

“I’m very sure,” Halep said, “that was the best match of my life.”

The No. 7-seeded Ro­ma­nian

made a mere three un­forced er­rors, a re­mark­ably low to­tal and 23 fewer than Wil­liams.

Not bad for some­one who has been frank about how jit­tery she has got­ten in past big matches and be­gan the day hav­ing lost nine of 10 matchups against Wil­liams. But after los­ing each of her first three ma­jor fi­nals, Halep now has won two straight, in­clud­ing at last year’s French Open.

“She lit­er­ally played out of her mind. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Si­mona,” Wil­liams said dur­ing the tro­phy cer­e­mony. “It was a lit­tle bit ‘a deer in the head­lights’ for me.”

Wil­liams also lost in straight sets against An­gelique Ker­ber in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal a year ago, and against Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open last Septem­ber.

“I just have to fig­ure out a way to win a fi­nal,” Wil­liams said.

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. In part be­cause of a bad left knee, she only had played 12 matches all sea­son un­til Wim­ble­don.

“Just got to keep fight­ing,” Wil­liams said, “and just keep try­ing.”

It didn’t take long on Satur­day for the 27-yearold Halep to demon­strate this was not go­ing to be easy for Wil­liams.

Not by any means. Show­ing off the tal­ents and traits that once lifted her to No. 1 in the rank­ings, Halep never re­ally gave Wil­liams a chance to get into the match.

“I’ve al­ways been in­tim­i­dated a lit­tle bit when I faced Ser­ena. She’s an in­spi­ra­tion for ev­ery­one and the model for ev­ery­one,” Halep said. “To­day, I de­cided be­fore the match that I’m go­ing to fo­cus on my­self and on the fi­nal of (a) Grand Slam, not on her. That’s why I was able to play my best, to be re­laxed, and to be able to be pos­i­tive and con­fi­dent against her.”

Halep tracked down ev­ery­thing, as is her wont. She didn’t merely play de­fense, though, man­ag­ing to go from re­triev­ing an ap­par­ent poin­tend­ing stroke by Wil­liams to lash­ing a win­ner of her own in a blink.

“I was over-hit­ting it, try­ing to go for too much,” Wil­liams said. “She was get­ting just a tremen­dous amount of balls back.”

TIM IRE­LAND AP

Si­mona Halep runs down a shot by Ser­ena Wil­liams in the women’s fi­nal Satur­day at Wim­ble­don. Halep won the match 6-2, 6-2 for her sec­ond Grand Slam ti­tle.

BEN CUR­TIS AP

Si­mona Halep raises the tro­phy she re­ceived after de­feat­ing Ser­ena Wil­liams 6-2, 6-2 in the women’s fi­nal Satur­day at Wim­ble­don. Halep took less than an hour to win her sec­ond ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

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