Wimbledon 2019

Halep in way of Serena's 24

Serena Williams en route to beating Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2 in about an hour yesterday. The seven-time Wimbledon champion, who lost last year's final to Angelique Kerber, will be contesting her 11th final at the All England Club tomorrow against Si
Serena Williams en route to beating Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2 in about an hour yesterday. The seven-time Wimbledon champion, who lost last year's final to Angelique Kerber, will be contesting her 11th final at the All England Club tomorrow against Simona Halep. PHOTO: REUTERS

Williams seeks title to equal Court's Slam record; Halep vows to 'fight to the end'

LONDON • No. 24 is just one match away for Serena Williams. She is back in the final of Wimbledon for the 11th time after a stirring 6-1, 6-2 win over Czech Barbora Strycova yesterday.

Only Simona Halep stands in her way of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, after the Romanian beat Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-3 in the earlier semi-final.

But she will be making her first appearance in tomorrow's Major final, unlike Williams, who will be playing for her eighth Wimbledon crown and is now the oldest Grand Slam finalist at the age of 37.

Although the former world No. 1 Williams has yet to win a title of any kind since returning to the WTA Tour in March last year following a year-long maternity break, the American knows there will be no better opportunity to match Margaret Court's feat.

Williams, who is enduring the longest drought since her professional career began in earnest in 1998, said in her post-match interview: "It's good, especially after my year (of injuries). It definitely feels good to be back in the final.

"I just needed some matches. I know I'm improving and I just needed to feel good and then I can do what I do best which is play tennis. I love what I do."

Of tomorrow's match-up, she added: "We always have tough matches, I look forward to it."

  • 9-2

    Serena Williams' record against final opponent Simona Halep.

Halep, though, would equally love to upset the form book and clinch her second Major title after winning last year's French Open.

Having endured somewhat of a slump since winning at Roland Garros with just one Tour triumph since - at last August's Rogers Cup - she wants to arrest her poor record of three past losses in Grand Slam finals.

The former world No. 1, who will now jump three places to fourth, said: "It's an amazing feeling, but I am also excited and nervous. It is one of the best moments of my life.

"The match was not easy, the games were long and went deep. I fought hard to win this match and I was strong mentally and physically and had the right tactics."

She had lost in her previous semi-final appearance at Wimbledon to Canadian Eugenie Bouchard five years ago, but claimed that her run to the final proves she is just as comfortable on grass as she is on clay.

"I have more experience, I don't give up anymore," Halep said. "I plan to be the best version of myself and fight to the end."

While the contest had looked close on paper, with eighth seed Svitolina holding a 4-3 advantage in head-to-head meetings, it ended up being thin on drama and over in just 73 minutes.

Despite being cheered on by French boyfriend and ATP player Gael Monfils in the stands, last year's WTA Finals Singapore champion lost the first set without holding her serve even once and it was more of the same in the second, with her opponent failing to drop a point in her first three service games.

However, Halep insisted that the "scoreline was not how it looks", before firing a warning to Williams that she was feeling "strong mentally and physically".

"Each game went long and deep, but I am pleased with my tactics," she added. "I really want to win this championships."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2019, with the headline 'Halep in way of Serena's 24'. Print Edition | Subscribe