Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep
Both players have a lot riding on this match. Serena Williams can tie Margaret Court by taking a 24th major home. She can also move within one of Martina Navratilova’s all-time record of 9 Wimbledon singles titles. Simona Halep can take her second major title at a venue that would seemingly be ill suited for her game. I am not sure how much either are thinking about broader records. Being the 2019 Wimbledon singles champion is a massive achievement in and of itself. Still, I heard some tennis voices wondering if Serena lacked the mobility to win another major. These same voices have often questioned Simona Halep’s mental outlook in big matches. So a win can silence a lot of negative chatter even if that is not the goal.
What Halep Needs to Do: Move, Retrieve, and Counter-Punch
Serena Williams as a 7-time champion has to be the favorite. Her game is well suited to grass, and if the roof closes, she is an excellent indoor player too. Simona Halep’s biggest weapon in this match is her court coverage. I noted earlier that many great movers have won at Wimbledon. Some of these movers have offense oriented games like Serena Williams. Other winner with great movement have been counter-punchers and retrievers.
Angelique Kerber is a gifted mover and played Serena tough in the 2016 Wimbledon final and upended Serena in the 2018 Wimbledon final. I think the 2018 final needs to be Halep’s template for winning. Halep is quick and will retrieve a lot of good shots from Serena. That may be enough to win, but it also leaves the match entirely on Serena’s racquet. If Halep only retrieves, Serena’s error total is her only hope. However, if Halep counter-punches along the lines of great movers who have won Wimbldon like Kerber, Hewitt, and Connors, she can pressure Serena Williams with well timed offense in addition to making Serena hit extra shots to win points. I don’t think Kerber should slap at the ball hoping to hit a ton of winners. That is not her game, but if Serena commits to a certain court position to hit a big shot, Halep needs to stand firm and either redirect that big shot to the open court or hit behind Serena hoping to wrong foot her. In short, Halep has to go from defense to offense often enough to keep Serena Williams off balance.
This will be no easy task for Halep. Naomi Osaka did this well in the 2018 US Open final, but she has more weapons than Halep. Kerber’s forehand is a weapon and Kerber’s lefty service deliveries covered up some of her slower serving in a way Halep cannot replicate. Halep will need to be ready so see some return winners just fly by her. The old adage of serving to spots that make Serena move more than one step or that jam Serena will be important.
What Serena Needs to Do: Dictate Play and Recover when Not Dictating
Serena Williams has set numerous tennis records because she is a great champion and player. She is mentally tough while also not getting enough credit for her technique. Her shots very rarely breakdown during a match. Serena needs to let her serve set up favorable shot patterns in which she controls most points. Similarly, Serena’s solid return and Halep’s serve could combine to allow Serena grabbing the initiative in most return points as well.
I think the number of times Serena can dictate when returning will determine what sort of championship match the fans see. If Serena is dictating on most of Halep’s service points, this could/should be a fairly quick match. If Halep’s serve is placed well enough to earn some holds, Serena will have to dig in for a longer match. I think in either case Serena is in the favorable spot. She has more weapons, she has won the title 7 times in the past plus a gold in singles on the same court. I think Serena just needs to be confident in her game, and if she has a rough patch, she needs to simply remember that stringing together quality serves or returns will put her back into the driver’s seat. Finally, if Halep does take control of a point, Serena needs to do what she has done so well for so many year. She needs to go from defense to offense.
My Prediction: Serena Williams d. Simona Halep 6-4, 6-4
I cannot see Halep having enough weapons to make Serena uncomfortable. Halep moves well enough to win the match if Serena plays poorly. Halep may be able to do some things in terms of serve placement, counter-punching, and reaching unexpected shots to bring Serena’s level of play down. I think if Serena lets her serve and return guide her, Serena will win her 24th singles major and 8th Wimbledon singles title.