It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish – that was the statement Serena Williams made after she wrapped up her fifth WTA Finals title with an overpowering victory over Simona Halep on Sunday.
After a year she described as the most “up and down” of her career, Williams stepped up when it mattered the most – in the tail-end of the season.
Having fallen short in the first three majors in 2014, Williams struck back to grab the US Open title – her 18th grand slam – and rebounded from injury and a shocking result to Halep in Singapore earlier in the week, to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy.
“It's been a really difficult year for me. I don't think I've had such an up and down year. But I ended the year well. I had a couple injuries in the beginning of Asia, but I'm glad I came and I was able to end well. So I think that was important. It’s not how you start it’s how you finish, right?” said Williams after the win.
Gunning for a third Finals title in three years, Williams was in a unique situation, looking to avoid a second defeat to the same player in one tournament for the first time in her career.
She had lost to Halep 6-0, 6-2 just four days prior in the round robin stages and was adamant on doing better. Before the match, she set herself modest goals – just win three games, one more than the last time.
But Williams went above and beyond that, handing the Romanian a bagel of her own en route to a 6-3, 6-0 rout in just 69 minutes to become the first player to pull off a "threepeat" at the championships since Monica Seles achieved that feat in 1992.
Halep was the first to break in the match, edging ahead 2-1 but Williams did not panic. She was serving better, moving better and immediately broke back even though Halep was on her way to hold for a 3-1 lead, up 40-0. They exchanged breaks in games six and seven but Williams went on to take eight games in a row to avenge her defeat to the 23-year-old in emphatic fashion.
“I had to play more Serena‑style tennis and just do what I do best: enforce myself. That's what I was trying to do,” Williams said of how she made sure she didn’t suffer a second loss to Halep.
Halep could have eliminated Williams from the competition had she lost to Ana Ivanovic in straight sets on Friday but just like the Romanian said the thought never crossed her mind, the world No1 said she would never expect her opponent to think like that.
“That's not how we as WTA players play. We play and give our all for everything,” said the American. “She definitely gives her all, so I don't think that went through her mind at all.”
On her part, Halep, who rose to No3 in the world today, was disappointed to lose but tried to focus on the big picture and her great week in Singapore, where she was making her Finals debut.
“I was a little bit nervous. I was tired a little bit and I couldn't make the step into the court and to, you know, open the court to play more aggressive,” she said.
Indeed Halep lacked aggression and could only hit five winners throughout the match and went to the net just twice.
“Today she was much stronger than me,” Halep added. “She had more power. I knew that she will be more motivated during this match because we played few days ago and I won that match."
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