Saturday, July 13, 2019

London calling: Si-mo-na!

photo by Diane Elayne Dees

Speed has never been accepted as a "legitimate" tennis "weapon," but perhaps, after today, there will be some re-thinking on that subject. World number 7 Simona Halep, throughout her Wimbledon final today, looked like the subject of one of those multiple-exposure photos we so enjoy seeing. Wherever she needed to be, she was there. And she was there with some absolutely wicked cross-court shots and passing shots.

Her opponent, seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, was undoubtedly prepared for Halep's speed and her outstanding defensive skills. After all, she had played the Romanian star many times--and beaten her in all but one of their ten matches.

What she may not have been prepared for was Halep's laser-like accuracy. Finding lines and angles like a Geometry Superhero (or Petra Kvitova when she won her Wimbledon championships), Halep simultaneously put on a show of athleticism and a clinic of baseline tennis. She allowed her opponent only one break opportunity, and Williams failed to break her.

After she won the first set 6-2, commentator John McEnroe remarked, "You can't keep this up, sorry." But Simona could keep it up. And she did. In fact, in the second set (in which she made no unforced errors), she looked positively dangerous at every move. Halep won that set 6-2, also.

Halep finished the 56-minute match with a first serve win percentage of 83 and a total of three unforced errors, the lowest number of unforced errors ever made by a woman in a singles final. She broke Williams four times (out of five opportunities), and hit only thirteen winners, but they were beauties, both forehand and backhand.

“I’m very sure it was the best match of my life.”

There are, to this day, no grass courts in Romania, where Halep still trains. The Romanian grew up playing on clay courts; she likes to take her time and she likes to slide. But she was determined to learn--not how to play "grass court tennis"--but rather, how to interpret her game on the grass, and she accomplished that goal. She made Serena repeatedly run side to side, forcing her into the kind of longer rallies that are Halep's bread and butter.

When Simona Halep walked out to the balcony of the All England Club and held up the Venus Rosewater dish, she was greeted by cheers of "Si-mo-na! Si-mo-na!' as Romanians (and, I bet, some others) chanted the words that have distinguished Halep as a rare female athlete with a rock star presence in her native land. Halep is the first Romanian to win Wimbledon.

Whether you are a tennis player, a musician, a poet, or anyone creating anything, there is indeed a "zone" available to you, and when you're in it, time stops, and you are one with the beloved activity. Simona Halep, on one of the most important days of her tennis career, found the zone, and the zone embraced her.


colt13 said...

Well said.

I think it is interesting that all three finals losses came to women who were able to play their style, and force Serena to react, or in this case, get left flat footed.

Diane said...

Thanks :)

Yes, it is interesting, and appears to reflect a growing confidence among players that their own games are good enough to get them to the next level. This is something I would think Serena would have adjusted to by now, but she hasn’t really played that much, and there is also the matter of age: Even Serena can’t keep her edge forever.