Serena Williams says her quest to equal Margaret Court’s record tally of 24 grand slam singles wins is not weighing heavily on her mind after reaching the Wimbledon final.
The seven-time champion is within one victory of putting herself alongside the Australian after she overpowered unseeded Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2 in the semi-final.
The prospect of doing so caused Williams issues in her defeats in last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals, but she insists it will no longer be a problem when she faces Simona Halep in Saturday’s final.
“I thought about it this morning,” she said. “I actually didn’t think about it since because it’s really not about 24, or 23, or 25.
“It’s really just about going out there and giving my best effort. No matter what I do, I will always have had a great career.
“I just kind of let it go this morning. I feel really calm about it.”
Williams believes her mixed doubles partnership with Andy Murray helped her get so far.
The serve has been nearly flawless and the groundstrokes as brutal as ever, but her occasional forays to the net – a feature of her doubles matches with Murray – have also paid off handsomely.
Williams admitted: “I promise you, when I hit a volley I was like, ‘Would I have made that if I didn’t play doubles’? I don’t think so.
“I kept telling you guys I thought the doubles would help me. I really think it did. I don’t attack the net that much. I tried to and I want to.
“I know when I play doubles here with Venus, it definitely helps my singles game. I was really keen to play mixed here.
“I really feel like it helped me, not just for today and this event, but hopefully it will help me in the future.”
Halep described reaching her first Wimbledon final as one of the best moments of her life.
The seventh seed produced a fine display to beat Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-3 in just an hour and 13 minutes and become the first Romanian woman to make the singles showpiece at the All England Club.
Speaking to the BBC after walking off Centre Court, Halep said: “It is an amazing feeling. I am very excited and nervous. It was one of the best moments of my life.”
It will be Halep’s fifth grand slam final and comes just over a year after she won her first major title at the fourth attempt at the French Open.
It was a particularly proud moment for the 27-year-old’s mother Tania, with Halep saying: “I talked to my mum after the match. About 10, 15 years ago she said her dream is (for Halep) to play the final in Wimbledon because everyone is here, the Royal Box.
“So today her dream came true. I will play a final. It’s very special this moment. To be able to play Wimbledon final, it’s pretty amazing. I will enjoy for sure.”
Halep has only won one of her previous 10 matches against Williams but few have been one-sided and their fourth-round clash at the Australian Open in January was one of the best of the year.
“I played many matches against her,” she said. “Many of them were very close. Now, if I face her, I will believe that I have my chance to win.
“Of course, I respect a lot what she has done and what she’s doing. But now I feel stronger mentally facing her. It’s just a big challenge for me.”
Wimbledon are working on a statue of Andy Murray for when he retires, chairman Philip Brook has revealed.
Chief executive Richard Lewis said in January after Murray raised the possibility of his imminent retirement that Wimbledon would honour the Scot in the same way as Fred Perry, whose bust is outside Centre Court.
Speaking to a group of reporters in the All England Club boardroom, Brook said: “What we don’t want to do is retire him too early. Our thought all along is that we want to recognise Andy’s significant achievements here at Wimbledon in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.
“We think an appropriate time is to unveil something when he retires. We are working on it. We have done some work already on it and there is still more work to do.”
Wimbledon have not yet consulted Murray on the sort of statue he would like, or decided where it will go, with the former world number one hopeful of returning to singles competition soon.
Brook’s time at the helm of the All England Club is definitely nearly up, though, with his nine-year tenure coming to an end in December.
He is proud of the progress he has overseen, listing the installation of the Court One roof, which is being used for the first time this year, the extension of the grass-court season and the purchase of land from the neighbouring golf club as his biggest achievements.
The latter, finally agreed at the end of last year, will treble the size of Wimbledon’s land, and the club have appointed a planning firm to help them shape the future of the tournament.
Brook is also proud of the increase in prize money in his time, saying: “It was £14 million when I first started, it’s £38 million this year. Players may say it’s not enough but it’s grown faster than this business has grown over the past nine years.”
Brook steps down at an interesting time for the sport, with a group on the ATP Player Council, led by Novak Djokovic, looking to challenge the percentage of profits given out in prize money.
They feel the players are not adequately remunerated compared to other sports despite the huge increases paid out by the slams over the past few years.
Brook believes players should appreciate more what they have, saying: “They don’t understand where we’ve come from, and they always want more.
“Generations past who have given up their share of prize money in order to allow events to continue to grow and succeed and make them what they are today. There is this continuous transfer of equity from one generation to the next, which the current generation don’t necessarily always understand.
“Spend more time with Rod Laver, or even Tim Henman actually, and they’d learn things were different, or very, very different, not that long ago.”
Brook will be succeeded by fellow board member Ian Hewitt but voiced his hope that one day this most traditional of establishments will be led by a woman.
“I would love it to have a female chair at some point,” he said. “And similarly a chief executive. It would be a great statement.”
Roger Federer brought up a century of wins at Wimbledon to set up a mouth-watering semi-final with Rafael Nadal.
The eight-time champion, who won his first game at SW19 as a 19-year-old in 2001, beat Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-final on Centre Court.
He set up the 40th instalment of one of tennis’ great rivalries and their first here since the epic 2008 final.
And Federer is looking forward to ending the wait for a rematch.
“He has improved so much over the years on this surface,” Federer said. “He’s playing also very different than he used to.
“We haven’t played each other in a long, long time on this surface. He’s serving way different.
“I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points.
“It’s impressive to see how sort of healthy he’s stayed. A lot of them are saying, ‘Oh, it’s the end’, by 2008. Similar to me in 2009. We’re still here. So it’s nice to play each other again.”
It is the semi-final that everyone wanted and Nadal did his bit by beating Sam Querrey.
The third seed’s 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win was not entirely straightforward but Nadal was more than good enough to continue the big three’s domination by following Federer and Novak Djokovic into the last four.
This is the first time since 2007 that the trio have all made the semi-finals here together, while before last month’s French Open it had not happened at any grand slam for seven years.
Nadal said: “First of all, it is a great feeling to be back in the semi-finals, to be able to be playing at this level of tennis is great news. Very happy the way that we managed to be in that round.
“Playing against Roger always is a unique situation. I am excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years.”
Djokovic dismantled David Goffin’s game to cruise into a ninth semi-final.
The defending champion was an early break down but from there was utterly ruthless, winning 10 games in a row across the three sets in a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 victory.
Djokovic will be a heavy favourite to make a sixth final when he takes on Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday.
Djokovic could not have been happier with his performance, saying: “I’ve been playing my best tennis in this tournament in the last two rounds.
“Especially today, second set and third set against Goffin, who was in form, I felt like I managed to dismantle his game and find always the right shots.”
Bautista Agut is happy to put his stag party on hold after reaching his first grand slam semi-final by beating Guido Pella 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Grass is not Bautista Agut’s strongest surface, so much to the point that he arranged his stag do to be held in the second week of the tournament.
The 31-year-old should be in Ibiza with his friends as he prepares for his November wedding, but is preferring life in London at the minute, ahead of his meeting with Djokovic.
He said: “I had planned to be in Ibiza right now. We had everything organised already. My friends, six of them, are all there. Well, it feels better to be here in London. I think they will fly on Friday.”