Simona Halep revealed how a painful loss at the French Open set her on the path to Wimbledon glory.
The 27-year-old produced one of the great final performances at the All England Club, committing just three unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Serena Williams that she described as the best match of her life.
Halep is at her most comfortable on clay and won her first grand slam title last summer in her third French Open final, but her defence of that crown ended with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova in the quarter-finals.
“The biggest adjustment is the way I played,” said Halep. “In the French Open, in the quarter-finals, I played very bad. I was disappointed and I didn’t manage how to be aggressive in that match.
“So then I started to work on this direction, I’ve been more aggressive and here I didn’t fall back at all. It hurt me that loss. I got motivated straight away to be better here.”
As well as her current coach, fellow Romanian Daniel Dobre, Halep also used her on-court interview to thank her mentor, Darren Cahill.
The Australian was Halep’s full-time coach until he announced at the end of last season that he was taking a break to spend more time with his family, but he remains a very important figure in her life.
Halep credits an on-court coaching visit from Cahill at the Miami Open in 2017 for setting her on the right path.
Cahill was so unhappy with Halep’s negative attitude that he stopped working with her for two months. They were reunited ahead of that year’s French Open, where she went on to reach her second slam final.
“He has taught me how to manage my emotions, how to be a better person on court,” said Halep.
“He gave me advice to trust myself as a player on court and being able to face everyone and to beat everyone. If you hear some things like this from a person that you trust and is the best coach in the world, then you are more confident and you can go on to make them happen.
“He’s a very special person and because of him I was also able to win here. We started to work this change. As I told him, I needed time for it to sink in and to be able to feel it.”
Halep’s most treasured prize appeared not to be the trophy but the purple badge that signified she is now a member of the All England Club and can return for a visit whenever she likes.
There are no grass courts in Romania, where the French Open is the most popular slam, but Halep’s mother Tania told her when she was a child that the final she needed to reach was Wimbledon.
“She has no idea about tennis so definitely not the way of playing or stuff like that,” said Halep when asked why SW19 had been so important to her mother.
“Maybe the fact that you play in front of the Royal Box, the Royal family, made her feel special. That’s why she told me it’s going to be the most awesome and beautiful thing to play a final. She didn’t say to win it. Now I made it more special.”
The Duchess of Cambridge, who Halep had identified as the person she most wanted to be in the Royal Box on Saturday, and Williams’ close friend the Duchess of Sussex were among the spectators wowed by the new champion’s performance.
But it is not just the Royal presence that makes Halep so enamoured with her new club.
“All the flowers – I love flowers,” she said. “The colours, the people, they are very well dressed. The elegance of everywhere you go. The courts, the rules that you have to be white when you play. The champion’s balcony, it’s pretty awesome.
“Everything makes this tournament very special. I never thought I would be able to win on grass. So when I did it, it makes it huge.”
Number seven seed Simona Halep produced a near-flawless performance in the final of the women’s singles at Wimbledon on Saturday to win the title for the first time at the expense of Serena Williams, who is still chasing a 24th Grand Slam title.
The Romanian won 6-2, 6-2 in just 56 minutes, making just three unforced errors to Williams’ 26.
The men’s doubles title went to Colombian pair Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah who beat French duo Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.
Roger Federer gained his revenge 11 years on with victory over great rival Rafael Nadal to reach a 12th Wimbledon final.
A rematch of their classic 2008 title decider, won in five pulsating sets by Nadal, had been anticipated more than any match for years at the All England Club and it did not disappoint.
The final stages were packed full of extraordinary tension and drama, with Nadal saving four match points but, after three hours and two minutes, it was Federer, a month shy of his 38th birthday, who clinched a 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory and the chance to take on Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
Should he win, it would give the ageless Swiss a ninth Wimbledon title and take him to 21 grand slam trophies, three ahead of Nadal and six clear of Djokovic.
This was Federer and Nadal’s 40th meeting, a clash of styles and personalities that dates back 15 years and continues to capture the imagination like nothing else in sport.
Nadal had won 24 of their previous 39 matches and 10 of 13 at the slams but victory for Federer in the 2017 Australian Open final had shown him that he could win again when it mattered most.
Indeed, Nadal had not beaten Federer on a surface other than clay since 2014, ending a run of five straight defeats in the semi-finals of the French Open last month.
But the 33-year-old has played on grass without pain in his knees for the last couple of years and had looked in fine fettle throughout this fortnight.
The Spaniard’s serve had been particularly impressive – he went into the match having served more aces than Federer – and the first set was notable for how few rallies there were.
John Isner or Ivo Karlovic would have been proud of the serving statistics both men produced, with the only break point coming in the eighth game and saved by Nadal.
Federer was getting significantly more returns in play, though, and in the tie-break that paid dividends.
Nadal was twice an early mini-break up but Federer won the final five points to take first blood, his backhand, so often the bellwether of his chances against his great rival, purring like a vintage sports car.
Had he taken one of two break points in the third game of the second set, he might have pulled away, but the engine began to misfire a little and Nadal raced through the next four games to level the match.
Federer needed to re-calibrate, and he did, holding serve comfortably at the start of the third set and then dialling right back in to break for 3-1.
He won the game on a ding-dong point at the net, Nadal grimacing in frustration at having been unable to get the ball past his opponent.
This was the contest that had been salivated over, serve no longer on top, each man testing the other to the limit in pulsating rallies.
Nadal had two chances to break straight back but Federer saved them, the master attacker showing his rival that he, too, can defend as if his life depended on it.
The crowd roared their approval as he held for 4-1 and one break proved more than enough, Federer finishing an almost perfect set with a tally of 15 winners and two unforced errors.
It was Nadal looking short of answers but the fist pump towards his box when he held serve to open the fourth set showed that he would do everything he could to try to find them.
But, despite being nearly five years younger than his opponent, it was he who seemed to have lost the spring in his step and Federer took another step towards the finish line with a break for 2-1.
Nadal had been irked by being seeded lower than Federer despite his higher ranking and he screamed at himself when another chance to apply real pressure went begging in the sixth game.
So often he has been able to rouse himself to new heights at the most important moments but here the moments of magic were coming from the other end.
When Nadal saved two match points at 3-5, it seemed like this contest may have a twist reminiscent of 2008, and the final game was virtually a match in itself.
A shanked smash betrayed Federer’s nerves but he held firm to save a break point and kept pushing forward when Nadal produced two of his best points of the match to save two more match points.
On the fifth chance, Nadal’s resistance finally ran out, Federer raising his arms skywards as a last, desperate backhand flew long.