ENGLAND’S WIMBLEDON — “Serena, wake up!” screamed a British fan perched high in Centre Court late in the first set of Serena Williams’ Wimbledon latest Grand Slam letdown, possibly apprehensive about getting full value for his ticket fee.
The yell was heard by Williams.
“I wasn’t sleeping,” she stated emphatically.
The one-way flow of the Wimbledon women’s singles final against Simona Halep, who was playing as if in a dream, could not be changed.
On Saturday, Halep won 6-2, 6-2, masterfully handling the pressure to become the first Romanian to win a singles title at Wimbledon, the oldest of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
Halep, a former No. 1 and French Open champion, said, “That was absolutely the finest match of my life.”
Williams had a total of 26 unforced mistakes. Surprisingly, Halep only had three, and it wasn’t because she was afraid of taking chances.
“I’ve always been a little bit afraid when I met Serena,” Halep remarked, noting that she had only won one of her previous ten matches against Williams. In preparation for today’s match, I resolved to focus on myself and the Grand Slam final rather than on her. That’s why I was able to give it my all against her, to be comfortable, and to be optimistic and confident.”
At this point, it’s a much easier mental obstacle to overcome. Saturday’s result would have caused a big tremor in tennis a few years ago.
With her blend of power, court coverage, and mental toughness, Williams is a seven-time Wimbledon singles champion and one of the most powerful personalities in this mind game of a sport.
However, the dynamic has shifted, perhaps for the better.
Williams is without a doubt the finest player of this generation and one of the greatest of all time, but at 37 years old, she is no longer a reliable closer, which Halep stated gave her confidence.
Williams was defeated for the third time in a major final on Saturday. In the past year, she has won all of them in straight sets, attempting but failing to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles championships.
She has been unable to win a title since her return to the circuit in March 2018, owing to left knee problems. That was six months after she gave birth to Olympia Ohanian, her daughter, and suffered life-threatening post-delivery problems, according to her.
As for the majority, Williams said, “For the most part, I believe I’m on the right track.” “I am still a tough competitor.” “I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t.”
There are a variety of perspectives on Williams’ sequence of convincing Grand Slam losses. Given how infrequently she competes in regular tour events, it is no surprise that she continues to reach big finals. It is undeniably impressive that she can and will continue to impose her game at this late stage in her career.
She was the oldest women’s singles finalist at a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era at 37, with her next birthday in September.
“I’m not sure which is harder: playing after having a child or playing well into your 30s,” said Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam singles winner who lost in the Wimbledon final to Conchita Martinez in 1994 when she was 37 years old.
With everything Williams has been through, just being out there with a championship on the line is a huge accomplishment. She has, however, struggled to control her nerves and her shots when it was most needed.
On Saturday, Halep embodied focus and positive energy, much like Angelique Kerber, another talented counterpuncher and defender, did in last year’s Wimbledon final, when she defeated Williams 6-3, 6-3, with only five unforced errors.
However, that scoreline, like this year’s, reflected Williams’ weak performance. Williams only struck two aces against Halep, both in the second set, after the final had already swung heavily in Halep’s advantage.
Instead of putting Halep’s nerves to the test — which isn’t her strong suit — Williams let her develop a significant head of steam and confidence. In under 12 minutes, Halep won the first four games.
Ion Tiriac, a former player who has become one of Romania’s wealthiest men and who once coached tennis giants like Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas, and Boris Becker, gave Halep a series of Wimbledon pep speeches.
Halep had previously defeated Williams in round-robin play in the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore, winning 6-0, 6-2. Williams came back to upset her in the final of the same event, 6-3, 6-0, in one of the most lopsided defeats of her career. Williams’ recent matches have been significantly tighter, including a three-set triumph in the round of 16 at the Australian Open this year “inputs from www.sportingnews.com”.