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Simona Halep Wallops Serena Williams in Less Than An Hour To Win The Ladies Wimbledon Championship

By Alix Ramsay


It’s small and round, it’s purple (natch) and it has a name printed upon it. It is the most exclusive bit of cardboard in the world. And now Simona Halep has it. It is an All England Club member’s badge.


To say that the old club is exclusive is a bit like saying diamonds are expensive or Roger Federer is quite good. People put their children’s names down for membership the moment the little sprogs are born; the wait to get in can take the best part of a lifetime. And only then if you are approved by the various committees who deal with such things.


The oft quoted line is that the easiest way to get membership of the All England Club is to win Wimbledon. New champions get to hold the trophy – briefly – they get a nice, big pay cheque and they get life membership of the club. With that comes the badge. And it really, really matters.


When Serena Williams won her first title back in 2002, she bounced into the interview room exclaiming “I got the pin! I got the pin!” Her sister had had one for a couple of years by then but now she, too, had one. She was a member.


It was the same with the late, lamented Jana Novotna. She had had her trials and tribulations ion Centre Court over the years and then, in 1998, she finally won. And what was she saying to anyone who cared to listen as she climbed the clubhouse stairs after her victory? “I’m a member! I’m a member!”


So, as Simona came to face the world’s media after her 56-minute, 6-2, 6-2 trouncing of Serena, she made sure she was wearing her brand new, purple badge. It clearly meant the world to her.


“When I started the tournament,” she told us, “I talked to the people from the locker room that my dream is to become a member here. So today it’s real and I’m really happy.


“I met Philip [Brook, the Chairman of the All England Club]. He told me, ‘Any time you want, you can come, have dinner, have lunch, playing a little bit tennis’. I will come for sure. [I will come] Without pressure, without thinking I have a match tomorrow.”


Still, she showed little by way of pressure as she clobbered Serena. From first ball until last, she was inspired (only three unforced errors) and even when Serena tried to get a toehold in the match, when she started to shake off the nerves and start to fight, Simona kept running away from her and on to the title.

Simona Halep of Romania returns to Serena Williams of the US in the women's final of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 13 July 2019. EPA-EFE/WILL OLIVER EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO COMMERCIAL SALES

“I’m very sure that was the best match of my life,” she said. “Also on grass against her is never easy. So I’m really proud of my game of today and the whole tournament.


“I thought about the match, but I didn’t think at all against who I play. I always been intimidated a little bit when I faced Serena. Set and 5-2 when I was serving, after few points during the match, I looked at the scoreboard. I said, Okay, it’s 5-2, it’s real. Then I just played every ball. I didn’t think at the score at all.”


This was supposed to be her “chill” year, the season where she took the pressure off herself and allowed herself to enjoy her day job. Obviously it is a winning tactic as, seemingly, from out of the blue she has not only rediscovered her grand slam-winning ways, but she has learned how to do it on grass. The green stuff is not her natural hunting ground.


Yet, as she has been trying to point out for the past two weeks, this whole “chill” business had lost something in translation. All she meant was that she was not going to put pressure on herself anymore; she was still going to work and train as hard and she was still going to fight for every point. She was deadly serious about winning. But, even so, winning on grass seemed a little unlikely.


That was when Roger Federer (who also has one of those purple badges, funnily enough) stepped in. Asked about Simona’s chances in the final, he offered her a bit of advice.


“You have to have that winner mentality,” Federer said on Friday, “that I belong here, I’ve earned my way here, I’ve been playing great. You don’t get to a Wimbledon finals playing average, you know. Some people might do that, but normally you’re feeling the ball well. She needs to back herself and enjoy it also.”


Simona, a huge fan of the Great One, read these words and perked up.


“I read what he said,” she said. “I thank to him. He is very nice. His words made me happy. Also I really believe that there is a chance if I listen to him. Because if you listen to him, you get the good things. So I did that.”


If she listens to Serena,too, she could get more good things. The great champion was trying to win her 24th grand slam trophy to tie Margaret Court’s record but from the very first game, it was clear that it was not going to happen. Serena took it well and offered the hope that this would not be the last time the Romanian played so well.


“When someone plays lights out, there’s really not much you can do,” she said. “You just have to understand that that was their day today. Hopefully they can play like that more often, more consistently.”


Now that Simona had managed to do it on grass, there is every chance that she will be able to do it again and again on a surface more suited to her natural talents. But you don’t get a cardboard badge for winning anywhere else so it’s not really the same.

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