Wimbledon 2019

Past losses spurred Halep

Romanian tennis star Simona Halep with the Venus Rosewater Dish after beating fellow former world No. 1 Serena Williams in Saturday’s Wimbledon women’s singles final, which she described as “the best match of my life”.
Romanian tennis star Simona Halep with the Venus Rosewater Dish after beating fellow former world No. 1 Serena Williams in Saturday’s Wimbledon women’s singles final, which she described as “the best match of my life”. PHOTO: DPA

Romanian finally conquers grass and now sees Grand Slam final as just a 'normal match'

LONDON • Simona Halep says her previous failures in Grand Slam finals and a maiden success at Roland Garros last year helped drive her Wimbledon win against Serena Williams on Saturday.

In her fifth showpiece final, Halep demolished the 23-time major singles winner Williams 6-2, 6-2 in 55 minutes on Centre Court but before then came some hardships.

The 27-year-old Romanian lost two French Open finals in 2014 and 2017 before again being defeated in an epic battle with Caroline Wozniacki at the 2018 Australian Open.

"The finals I lost in the past helped me for sure to be different when I faced this moment (at Wimbledon)," said Halep.

"It's never easy to face a Grand Slam final. You can get intimidated by the moment. You can get nervous, too nervous."

However, Halep would soon get her hands on a major when she finally became a Grand Slam champion in Paris last year when she triumphed on the French Open clay against Sloane Stephens.

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  • Grand Slams Simona Halep has won.

It was a huge weight off Halep's shoulders, who was then ranked the world No. 1 and, even though she learnt to relax more in big career moments, the hunger for more Grand Slam glory remained.

"I was motivated after I won the first one in French Open that there is another chance for one more," said Halep. "That's why I was able to win this tournament now in this moment. Once you win one, you treat it a little bit easier."

As the hunger and belief in her own ability grew after winning the French Open, the pressure bestowed on Halep entering her first Wimbledon final against seven-time champion Williams subsided.

"I have learnt that it's a normal match, not thinking that much about the trophy, just going there and try to be the best as you can," Halep said.

She also had to believe she could conquer the grass, which she admitted in previous rounds of the tournament she was uncomfortable with.

"Thinking that is a possibility to win on grass, it was tough to believe because we don't even have a grass court in Romania," she said. "But I knew if we are patient and, if we work hard, we get the feeling of the grass court. I did it pretty well."

By winning her second Grand Slam at Wimbledon, Halep became the first Romanian player to win the tournament. The previous time a Romanian came closest was Ilie Nastase, who lost the 1972 men's final to Stan Smith.

When asked what her win would mean to the country, Halep said: "The French Open is better known because another two players from Romania won it. It's clay. We grow up on clay.

"But Wimbledon, I think it's very special for every country. Here the tennis was born, it makes it more special."

Meanwhile, Shintaro Mochizuki made history yesterday by becoming the first Japanese player to win a boys' Grand Slam title, beating Carlos Gimeno Valero of Spain 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

The 16-year-old, who was playing just his third grass-court tournament, follows 1969 girls' singles title winner Kazuko Sawamatsu in triumphing at the grass-court Grand Slam.

Mochizuki said he had learnt a lot from his compatriot, 2014 US Open finalist Kei Nishikori.

"He's really nice," said Mochizuki. "He gives me a lot of advice. Like sometimes I practise with him. I learn from him a lot."

Nishikori, nine times a Grand Slam quarter-finalist, took to Twitter almost immediately to fete his compatriot.

"Huge congrats to @ShintaroMOCHIZU! Such an amazing tournament," tweeted the 29-year-old Japanese star, adding a thumbs up icon, a flexed bicep icon and several Japanese flags.

DPA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2019, with the headline 'Past losses spurred Halep'. Print Edition | Subscribe