Simona Halep
Simona Halep Image Credit: Reuters

London: Simona Halep said she had “never played better” after shattering Serena Williams’s latest bid to capture a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam on Saturday as she stormed to a sensational victory in a 56-minute Wimbledon final.

The 27-year-old Romanian captured her second career major with a 6-2, 6-2 victory, adding a maiden Wimbledon to her 2018 Roland Garros triumph.

“I never played a better match,” said Halep.

“My mom said when I was 10 that if I want to do something in tennis I have to play in the final at Wimbledon. I had lots of nerves, my stomach wasn’t very well.

“I said at the start of the tournament that one of my motivations was to win and become a lifetime member of the club.”

Defeat for 37-year-old Serena, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who won the last of her 23 Slam titles at the 2017 Australian Open, meant her attempt to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record for major wins was put back on ice until at least the US Open.

Serena was undone by 26 unforced errors to Halep’s two in a personal horror show on Centre Court.

“She played out of her mind,” said Serena. “I was like a deer in headlights.”

Serena Williams’ wait for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title goes as an inspired Halep took full advantage of an error-strewn display by seven-time champion Serena to become the first Romanian to win a Wimbledon singles title.

The 27-year-old Halep, broke the Serena serve in the opening game and raced into a 4-0 lead in front of 15,000 disbelieving fans on Centre Court.

She remained rock solid throughout, making only three unforced errors, and Serena simply could not respond.

Even when Serena fired herself up at the start of the second set and began to strike the ball with her customary power, seventh seed Halep refused to take a backward step.

Halep weathered the storm and reeled off the last five games of what she described as the best match of her life.

Serena, who is still to add to her Grand Slam collection since giving birth to daughter Olympia in September 2017, looked out of ideas and the match ended after 56 minutes when she buried a forehand into the net — her 26th unforced error.

“Whenever a player plays like that, you just have to take your hat off,” Serena said. Until Saturday the only other Romanian to reach the Wimbledon final was Ilie Nastase, who twice finished runner-up, in 1972 and 1976. Halep went one better as she added the Wimbledon crown to the French Open she won in 2018.

Simona Halep Bio:

Born: Sept. 27, 1991 in Constanta, Romania (Age: 27)

Grand Slam titles (2): French Open 2018; Wimbledon 2019.

Won her first Grand Slam title after falling at the final hurdle three times — Roland Garros (2014, 2017) and the Australian Open (2018).

Became the first Romanian to win a Grand Slam crown since her manager Virginia Ruzici in Paris in 1978.

Started playing at the age of four Turned pro in 2006.

Career till date: Began playing on the ITF circuit in 2006.

Announced herself to the world in 2013, claiming six WTA titles — in Nuremberg, ‘S-Hertogenbosch, Budapest, New Haven, Moscow and Sofia. Finished the season at number 11.

Won two WTA titles in 2014 at Doha and Bucharest. Finished runner-up in three more events, including the French Open where she was beaten by Maria Sharapova in the final. Reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Ranking climbed to number three.

Triumphed in Shenzhen, Dubai and Indian Wells in 2015. Reached the semi-finals at the US Open and the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Finished the year ranked number two.

Claimed three WTA titles in 2016, in Madrid, Bucharest and Montreal. Quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and US Open.

Reached No. 1 for the first time in 2017 and won the Madrid title. Lost in the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko. Reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.

Beaten by Caroline Wozniacki the 2018 Australian Open final.

Claimed her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros defeating Sloane Stephens.

Dropped only one set throughout the tournament to claim her first Wimbledon title.