August 11, 2020
There was a reason Simona Halep and Serena Williams made it through to the last great Wimbledon women’s final.
The fighting spirit and steely nerve they possess is truly extraordinary.
You will recall that Halep produced a performance so stunningly perfect at Wimbledon 2019, not even the great Serena could overcome her that day.
How we would love to see more tennis of such breathtaking quality at Wimbledon 2021!
But the pair reach these showpiece occasions because they simply refuse to succumb to the seemingly inevitable.
So it was for Serena at the Top Seed Open in Lexington. She is such a tennis warrior.
Looking rusty, Williams was facing defeat against world number sixty Bernarda Pera.
She had already lost the first set 6-4. In the second, she was on the brink of defeat.
Serena was 0-40 down on her own serve at 4-4. It looked as though her fellow American would simply have to serve out the match.
Serena had other ideas.
She saved those break points and more, she held serve and then broke to level the match.
Pera never properly recovered psychologically.
Williams was fierce in the final set. She hadn’t played for six months but you could see the best Serena coming back.
Flashes of the sort of player she will need to be in order to fight to equal Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record at Flushing Meadows next month.
Watched by her daughter Alexis Olympia and husband Alexis Ohanian, this was not a contest she was prepared to lose.
You could see that Serena wasn’t entirely happy with her performance. But you could also see the fire start to burn within her once more. And you sensed she was loving that feeling.
It was the same for Simona Halep in Prague. It wasn’t ideal when the reigning Wimbledon champion needed seven match points in three different games.
And it certainly hadn’t been ideal when Halep lost the second set to Polona Hercog 1-6.
Remember Hercog? She was Coco Gauff’s opponent on that famous day on Wimbledon’s Centre Court when the 15-year-old came back from the dead to triumph.
The whole world took Gauff to their hearts and she was only beaten in the end by Halep.
Hercog is no pushover. The Slovenian is world number forty-six. It was never going to be easy for Halep.
Simona hadn’t played since February 22. No wonder she temporarily lost her killer instinct.
But after two-and-a-half hours, Halep closed out the match 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3).
Different tournaments. Different scenarios. Both extremely testing mentally. Both the Wimbledon finalists came through.
Serena and Simona, we can’t wait to see you again at Wimbledon 2021.
You are tennis warriors of the highest calibre. Welcome back to competitive tennis. We have missed you!