A second dream came true for Simona

 - Alix Ramsay

Simona Halep defetaed Serena Wiliams and won her first Wimbledon and second grand slam title.

Simona Halep smiling with her Wimbledon 2019 trophy©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The smile could be seen from space. Simona Halep was the champion of Wimbledon. Better still, she was now a member of the All England Club.

She has just taken the briefest of brief 56 minutes to demolish the great Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2, that would be the same Serena who was in pursuit of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and an eighth trophy in SW19.

Serena Williams  looking smiling at Simona Halep and her Wimbledon 2019 trophy.©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Just three unforced errors

Serena was tight at the start – there was no mistaking that – but Simona was brilliant from start to finish. There was nowhere that Serena could put the ball that Simona would not hunt it down and fire it back in earnest.

Even when the great champion began to fight, to roar and to battle, it didn’t make the blindest bit of difference. “Here she comes!” Tracy Austin intoned from the commentary box but by that time, Simona was miles ahead and making a sprint for the finish line.

Simona made just three unforced errors to Serena’s 26 which in a match of 93 points, made a significant difference. And throughout it all, the Roland Garros champion of 2018 looked utterly nerveless.

“Oh, I had nerves,” Simona said. “My stomach was not very well before the match but I knew there is no time for emotions, I just came on court and I gave my best.”

Pumped Simona Halep during her Wimbledon 2019 final©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“The best match of my life"

At Roland Garros, she had to endure two bitter losses in the finals of 2014 and 2017 before she finally got her hands on the silverware last summer. At the All England Club in her very first final and against the greatest champion of them all, she was running away with it from the opening game.

“I'm very sure that was the best match of my life,” she said. “Also on grass against her is never easy. So I'm really proud of my game of today and the whole tournament.

“I thought about the match, but I didn't think at all against who I play. I always been intimidated a little bit when I faced Serena. Set and 5-2 when I was serving, after few points during the match, I looked at the scoreboard. I said, Okay, it's 5-2, it's real. Then I just played every ball. I didn't think at the score at all.”

That was when the smiling began. Her team and her family up in the players’ box were in tears but the new champion was just grinning from ear to ear. Never in her wildest imagination did she believe that she could win a Wimbledon title – grass was not her surface. Yes, she had worked hard to adapt her game to the green stuff, but to win? That seemed like a pipe dream.

Serena Williams and Simona Halep during a changeover at Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Some Fed-advice

Even when she basking in the afterglow of victory and talking to the world’s press, she was happy to admit that it had all come as a bit of a surprise. When did she finally think she could win? “Today!” came the honest and cheery answer.

Her idol knew that she had a better chance than that and had said as much on the eve of the final. Roger Federer knew it would be a challenge but that Simona had the wherewithal to win, even if she was playing the great Serena.

“You have to have that winner mentality,” Federer said, “that I belong here, I've earned my way here, I've been playing great. You don't get to a Wimbledon finals playing average, you know. Some people might do that, but normally you're feeling the ball well. She needs to back herself and enjoy it also. But that comes after when you win.

“It's full-on concentration, not let the moment be too big. The good thing is she's won a slam before. She knows how to do it at this point. That's great.”

She did exactly what Fed told her to. And it worked.

“I read what he said,” she said. “I thank him. He is very nice. His words made me happy. Also I really believe that there is a chance if I listen to him. Because if you listen to him, you get the good things. So I did that.”


Disconcerted Serena Williams at Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Of course Serena was disappointed, but...

As for Serena, the wait for that 24th major title goes on. She took the defeat well, all things considered.

Of course she was disappointed but she had come to Wimbledon having played just 12 matches all year and having only had two weeks of pain-free practice once her ailing knee had calmed down. On top of that, she was playing a woman who was at the very peak of her game. She knew she had taken a hiding but there was not a lot more she could have done to stop it.

“When someone plays lights out, there's really not much you can do,” Serena said. “You just have to understand that that was their day today. Hopefully they can play like that more often, more consistently.

“Hopefully I can raise the level of my game sometimes.”

Simona Halep hitting a backhand during her Wimbledon 2019 final©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

A life membership

Still, they were united by one common bond. When Serena won her first Wimbledon title back in 2002, she was ecstatic mainly because, as she kept saying: “I got the pin! I got the pin!” She meant the handwritten member’s badge that all members of the All England Club wear with pride. When Simona won on Saturday, what seemed to please her the most was that as a champion, she, too, had life membership of the venerable old club.

“It feels good,” she grinned broadly. “I wanted this badly. When I started the tournament, I talked to the people from the locker room that my dream is to become a member here. So today it's real and I'm really happy.”

That smile is going to take an awfully long time to fade.