Wimbledon 2019

Hats off to Halep

A beaming Simona Halep showing off the winner's Venus Rosewater Dish as she and losing finalist Serena Williams leave Wimbledon's Centre Court after the final yesterday. Halep's 6-2, 6-2 victory made her the first Romanian woman to win the Wimbledon title
A beaming Simona Halep showing off the winner's Venus Rosewater Dish as she and losing finalist Serena Williams leave Wimbledon's Centre Court after the final yesterday. Halep's 6-2, 6-2 victory made her the first Romanian woman to win the Wimbledon title. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Stunned Williams hails conqueror for playing 'out of her mind' to deny historic 24th Slam

LONDON • Despite an upset stomach, there was no stopping Simona Halep yesterday as she played a near-flawless final to become the first Romanian woman to win the Wimbledon title while wrecking Serena Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

The 37-year-old Williams, still one short of Margaret Court's all-time tally, smiled graciously at the end, but would have been crying inside. Halep beamed like a lighthouse in celebration of a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing in only 56 minutes of perhaps the game's greatest player.

"She really played out of her mind," Williams admitted. "It was a little bit deer in the headlights for me. Whenever a player plays that amazing you just have to take your hat off and give her a nod."

Halep, charm and joy personified, agreed she had never played better.

"I had nerves," she said in front of 15,000 fans on Centre Court while clutching the trophy.

"My stomach was not very well before the match. But I had no time for emotions and just came out and tried my best.

MEMORABLE MOMENT

It was the best match. I never played a better match. I have worked a lot for this moment. It's something special and I'll never forget this day.

SIMONA HALEP, after humbling Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the Wimbledon singles final yesterday.

"It was the best match. I never played a better match. I have worked a lot for this moment. It's something special and I'll never forget this day.

"It's my mum's dream. When I was 10, 12 years old, she said I had to play the final of Wimbledon.

"And the day came and my mum is here to see it. I have worked a lot to change a little bit my game to play on grass. I started to feel this year when the ball comes to me I knew what to do with it. I can't wait to come back here."

The 27-year-old has now added a second Slam title to her French Open triumph last year.

As for Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who won the last of her 23 Slam titles at the 2017 Australian Open, she will have to wait until next month's US Open to attempt to equal Court's record.

She was undone by 26 unforced errors to her opponent's three.

Halep broke serve in the opening game and raced to a 4-0 lead. She remained rock solid throughout and Williams simply could not respond.

Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, even shook his head in the stands when Halep went 3-0 up with a sublime return into the forehand corner.

"This is the best returning I've seen since I can't remember when," seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe observed.

There were signs that Williams was finding her range in the second set, but Halep was undaunted and reeled off the last five games, the contest ending after the American buried a forehand into the net after less than an hour.

It is the second year running that Williams arrived in the final seeking a 24th Slam. Last year she failed to get a set against Angelique Kerber. She then went on to lose the US Open final to Naomi Osaka.

It was the most unexpected finish to a match few had predicted would go this way. But there was no denying Halep, who played the near-perfect game in the middle of a storm that eventually ran out of force.

Williams has won only two of her past six finals in Slams. She is 38 in two months. If she is to add to her story, she had better do it soon.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline 'Hats off to Halep'. Print Edition | Subscribe