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.”
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