Wimbledon Preview: Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep

WIMBLEDON, England — On Saturday at Wimbledon, Serena Williams will play Simona Halep for the ladies’s title and compete in her third closing with an opportunity to win a 24th Grand Slam singles championship, which might tie Margaret Court’s document.

It has been two and a half years since Williams gained No. 23, on the 2017 Australian Open. At the time, she was pregnant along with her daughter, Olympia Ohanian, and she or he didn’t play one other event till March 2018.

Williams misplaced final yr’s Wimbledon closing to Angelique Kerber, 6-Three, 6-Three, and final yr’s United States Open closing to Naomi Osaka, 6-2, 6-Four.

This yr, Williams, 37, has performed a restricted schedule due to a persistent knee harm, however has regarded more and more sharp by means of every spherical at Wimbledon.

After her 6-1, 6-2 victory over Barbora Strycova within the semifinals on Thursday, Martina Navratilova, who gained a document 9 singles titles at Wimbledon, mentioned: “I feel Serena’s in full flight. Today she performed in addition to I’ve seen her play.”

Halep, a 27-year-old Romanian seeded seventh at Wimbledon, gained her first Grand Slam title on the French Open final yr. She is enjoying her first Wimbledon closing. Williams, the No. 11 seed, is in her 11th Wimbledon singles closing and in search of her eighth championship.

[You can watch the match on ESPN, beginning at 9 a.m. You can follow live scores here.]

Here are a couple of different story traces to observe:

Williams has discovered from one loss to Halep.

Williams has misplaced solely as soon as in her 10 matches in opposition to Halep, however it was a trouncing: 6-2, 6-Zero within the round-robin stage of the 2014 year-end championships in Singapore.

Williams avenged the loss within the closing of that event, 6-Three, 6-Zero, however says the reminiscence of it stays recent, and motivating.

“I feel the most important key with our matches is the loss that I had,” Williams mentioned Thursday. “I by no means forgot it. She performed unbelievable. That makes me know that stage she performed at, she will be able to get there once more. So I’ve to be higher than that.”

Simona Halep in her semifinal victory.CreditBen Curtis/Associated Press

It is their first assembly in a Grand Slam closing.

Halep and Williams have been two finest gamers at Grand Slam tournaments since 2014, with Halep reaching 5 finals and Williams 11. But they’re assembly in a Grand Slam closing for the primary time.

Their two most up-to-date matches have been at majors: within the fourth spherical of the Australian Open this yr and within the quarterfinals of the 2016 United States Open.

Interestingly, Williams by no means performed Jennifer Capriati or Kim Clijsters, two longtime rivals, in a Grand Slam closing. She didn’t face Justine Henin, the seven-time Grand Slam champion, in a significant closing till 2010, after every had reached that stage greater than 10 instances.

You can throw out the rankings.

Though Halep, at No. 7 on this planet, is ranked three spots forward of Williams, that can matter little to both.

Halep went into the Australian Open in January as the highest seed, after ending at No. 1 for the second yr in a row. But earlier than her fourth-round match in opposition to Williams, seeded 16th, Halep sounded a notice of deference acknowledging all her opponent had achieved.

“In my opinion, to be No. 1 on this planet and to be the very best participant on this planet, it’s a bit of bit totally different,” Halep mentioned.

After Halep misplaced the match, 6-1, Four-6, 6-Four, a reporter advised her: “You’re ranked No. 1, and she or he is Serena Williams.”

“Exactly,” Halep replied.

Serena Williams Defeats Simona Halep, Ranked No. 1. Anyone Surprised?With her spherical of 16 victory on the Australian Open, the indomitable Williams is one step nearer to profitable a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.Jan. 21, 2019

Williams has not been examined by top-10 opponents.

Williams has crushed nearly everybody on her strategy to 23 Grand Slam titles, however her highway to the Wimbledon closing every of the final two years has been notably straightforward. Each time, she has needed to face just one top-30 participant; each instances, that participant was Julia Görges. Williams has not performed a top-10 participant for the reason that Australian Open, when she beat Halep after which misplaced to No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

When the Wimbledon draw got here out, matches in opposition to the fifth-ranked Kerber and No. 1 Ashleigh Barty have been prospects, however Williams confronted neither.

Halep confronted just one top-10 participant on her strategy to the ultimate, No. eight Elina Svitolina, within the semifinals. But she did knock out Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, within the third spherical, after which Coco Gauff, the breakout participant of the event, within the fourth.

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