Saturday, July 13, 2019

Halep routs Serena for first Wimbledon crown

Simona Halep poses with the trophy in front of the
Romanian flag after winning the 2015 BNP Paribas
Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   At one time, Simona Halep couldn't win a Grand Slam final, and Serena Williams couldn't lose one.
   Lately, the roles have been reversed.
   Playing the match of her life, Halep routed a nervous Williams 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes today for her second major singles title and first at Wimbledon.
   "It's something very special," Halep, a 27-year-old Romanian, told the BBC after her maiden Wimbledon final. "I will never forget this day because when I was about 10, my mom said if I want to do something in tennis, I have to play the final of Wimbledon. The day came, so thanks, Mom."
   Halep, playing great defense, committed only three unforced errors to Williams' 26 and won 83 percent of the points on her first serve (29 of 35) to Williams' 59 percent (19 of 32).
   Williams, perhaps trying to atone for her atrocious behavior in a loss to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final last September, was calm during today's debacle and gracious afterward.
   "She (really) played out of her mind – congratulations, Simona," said Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon singles champion who had been 9-1 against Halep. "It was a little bit of deer in the headlights for me. Whenever a player plays that amazing, you have to take your hat off and give them a nod (of) the head, so congrats on all the hard work."
   Williams, a 37-year-old part-time Silicon Valley resident, was trying to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Williams, who won eight consecutive major finals in which she played from 2012 to 2015, is 0-3 in them since capturing the Australian Open in January 2017. She had her first child that September and suffered life-threatening complications. Since then, injuries have slowed Williams.
   "You can't deny the pressure she was under in this tournament," said ESPN commentator Chris Evert, who won Wimbledon in 1974, 1976 and 1981.
   Williams also was upset in straight sets by a defense-minded European in last year's Wimbledon final, falling 6-3, 6-3 to Angelique Kerber, a 5-foot-8 (1.73-meter) left-hander.
   "I really think last year when Kerber beat Serena, it gave baseliners new hope," Evert said.
   Also, Tennis Channel commentator Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 Wimbledon champion, said Friday that the grass at Wimbledon was playing slower this year, helping the 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) Halep.
   Halep lost her first three Grand Slam finals before breaking through in last year's French Open. Her coach at the time, Darren Cahill, threatened to quit unless she improved her attitude.
   Today, Halep was focused and confident, showing no sign of nerves.
   "Well, I had nerves," she noted. "My stomach was not very well before the match, but I knew there is no time for emotions. I just came on court and gave my best."
   Halep, seeded seventh, raced to a 4-0 lead after 13 minutes and won 16 of the first 22 points. Williams, seeded 11th, then began to find her game, but Halep closed out the set.
   Halep broke for 3-2 in the second set on a Williams error and for 5-2 on a backhand passing shot down the line that a lethargic Williams didn't chase. On Halep's first match point, Williams fittingly drilled a forehand into the net.
   This was Halep's ninth appearance at Wimbledon. She reached the semifinals in 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2017 and lost in the third round last year to crafty Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan.
   "(Halep) has played on grass enough to have instincts," Evert said. "The serve, the movement – everything clicked today."

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