Halep outplays Svitolina to secure first-ever Wimbledon final spot

Halep outplays Svitolina to secure first-ever Wimbledon final spot

The Romanian had not reached a Grand Slam final since claiming her maiden major in the 2018 French Open.

Simona Halep was on her game on Centre Court on Thursday, cruising past Elina Svitolina—one of her toughest match-ups on the tour—to reach her first career Wimbledon final.

Not only had Svitolina won four of the pair's last six meetings, but she'd barely lost the two she didn't win, having led 6-3 5-1 in a 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0 loss at the French Open back in 2017, and leading 4-1 in the third set of a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 defeat in Doha earlier this year.

 

The first two games of this match were tight, too—they lasted 20 minutes—but Halep won them both, and after 43 minutes the No. 7 seed had the first set in her pocket, 6-1.

The second set was closer as the two stayed on serve through 3-all, but Halep snuck out the first break of the set for a 4-3 lead, held for 5-3 and broke again for the match, closing it out, 6-1, 6-3, after the No. 8-seeded Svitolina hit one last backhand into the net.

Halep is now the first Romanian woman ever to reach the Wimbledon final.

"Well it's an amazing feeling," Halep told the BBC. "I'm really excited. I'm also nervous. It's one of the best moments of my life, so I'm just trying to enjoy it as much as possible."

As the two women slugged it out from the baseline, they both produced the same amount of unforced errors—16—but Halep hit more than twice as many winners as Svitolina, 26 to 10.

The French Open champion also held her first three service games of the second set at love.

"It was not as easy as the score showed, because every game was very long and very deep," Halep said, "but I fought very hard to win this match because she's an amazing player and it's always hard to play against her. I felt strong today, mentally and physically."

"I don't know if it was a lack of experience a little bit today, but I think she played unbelievable," Svitolina said in her post-match press conference. "She was moving really well, striking the ball perfectly. It was a little bit of me making poor decisions in some important moments and then her playing unbelievable that made the score like that."

The Romanian is now through to her fifth Grand Slam final. She lost her first three, to Maria Sharapova at the 2014 French Open, Jelena Ostapenko at the 2017 French Open and Caroline Wozniacki at the 2018 Australian Open. She finally lifted her first title at the 2018 French Open, rallying from 6-3, 2-0 down to beat Sloane Stephens in the final, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

How will the former No. 1's last few years help her in this year's Wimbledon final?

"I have more experience now," she said. "I'm positive on the court. I'm not giving up anymore. I've learned many things in the last five years, and I'm just trying to be the best version of myself when I step on the court. I'll fight until the end every match I play.

"It's going to be the last match. It's a final, Centre Court—I can't ask for more."

Awaiting Halep in the final on Saturday will be Serena Williams, the No. 11 seed and a champion at Wimbledon seven times in 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Serena leads Halep in their head-to-head, 9-1, with Halep's only win coming in the round robin of the season-ending WTA Finals in 2014, 6-0 6-2. All three of their meetings at Grand Slams have gone to three sets, including a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win for Serena Wimbledon in 2011. Serena also prevailed, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in the round of 16 at this year's Australian Open.

"I've played many matches against her. Many of them were very close," Halep said of Serena. "I've learned that I have the chance. Now, I will believe that I have my chance to win against her. Of course, I respect a lot what she has done, and what she's doing.

"But now I feel stronger mentally facing her. We'll see - it's a big challenge for me."