Simona Halep thwarts Serena Williams’ historic bid with Wimbledon final triumph

Romania’s Simona Halep celebrates winning the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles final against Serena Williams of the US on Center Court. (Reuters)
Updated 13 July 2019

Simona Halep thwarts Serena Williams’ historic bid with Wimbledon final triumph

  • 27-year-old Romanian captured her second career major with a 6-2, 6-2 victory
  • Williams bluntly admitted she had not been at the races against a superior opponent

WIMBLEDON, London: Simona Halep torpedoed Serena Williams’s latest bid to capture a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam on Saturday when 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 — the first for her country in both men’s and women’s singles — to her 2018 Roland Garros triumph.
Defeat for 37-year-old Williams, 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.
“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,” said Halep.
“I had lots of nerves, my stomach wasn’t very well. I have never played a better match.
“I said at the start of the tournament that one of my motivations was to win and become a lifetime member of the club.”
Williams bluntly admitted she had not been at the races against a superior opponent.
“She played out of her mind. I was like a deer in the headlights,” said Williams.
Williams was undone by 26 unforced errors to Halep’s two.
Williams may have kept Halep waiting to go on court but if she hoped that would upset her opponent it did quite the opposite.
Indeed the Halep fan who burst into song — waving a Romanian scarf from the 2015 Rugby World Cup — singing “We love you Simona, we do!” served to give her the boost to rattle Williams from the start.
A flashing forehand crosscourt set the tone and she broke her in the first game.
She broke again to lead 3-0 — things clearly not going Williams’s way when a Halep shot clipped the net and went over but the American’s shot also clipped the net but failed to go over.
Already 3-0 down after eight minutes, Williams was completely at sea and by the time Halep served to lead 4-0 Williams had won just six points.
She finally got on the board with her next service game but Halep had little trouble in sealing the set which included another remarkable point from the Romanian.
The 27-year-old raced to retrieve an incredible get which sneaked over the net and Williams was only able to put her shot into the net.
Williams — who has let slip opportunities to equal Court’s record in last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals — appeared to at last get fired up in the first game of the second set.
She let out a long yell at the ground when she won a point on her serve and another on the next point.
However, that was a rare show of her fiery side as Halep broke her to lead 3-2.
Halep rubbed in her superiority to break her again for 5-2 — two powerful serves earlier in the game had Williams saying why was I not able to do this earlier — and took the match and the title with aplomb with the first of her three match points.
She sank to her knees a broad smile on her face before rising to hug Williams.
Her victory also gave Halep’s favored royal Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, bragging rights over sister-in-law Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — they were sitting beside each other in the Royal Box.
Meghan is a close friend of Williams.


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”