October 26, 2014
Serena Williams completed one of sport’s great revenge turnarounds in Singapore by crushing Simona Halep 6,3, 6-0 to win the BNP Paribas Finals.
Just days after being defeated by Halep and humiliated by a dreaded “bagel” set, the world number one inflicted similar embarrassment on a shell-shocked Simona when it really mattered.
After such sporting brutality, Serena’s Singapore hosts presented her with a delicate orchid, to be named in her honour.
To think that Serena had played a three-set marathon against Caroline Woznicki only a day earlier. Her stamina at 33, her appetite for success and above all her appetite for revenge was truly astounding.
The 23-year-old Romanian had no answer as she failed to hold her own serve beyond her opening service game. The more pressure Serena exerted, the less well the popular Halep coped, as her relative inexperience showed and she first-served at just 53%.
Ironically it was Halep who had points to go 3-1 ahead in the first set but failed to seize early control. Those proved to be the key moments of the match. Williams and her stubborn streak somehow prevailed when she might have succumbed to a sense of deja vu.
A delighted Serena jumped for joy at the end of her seventh year-end final, having clinched her fifth title. She said: ‘Simona was playing so well, just like the last time, and I literally laughed and said to myself, “Serena, relax! ” Then I started playing better and made my shots. She was playing really well and I wanted to win so I did what it took to play better.’
In truth Williams had looked closer to crying than laughing during her early moments of crisis, yet she still managed to summon the will-power to come out on top.
She added: ‘I didn’t expect this, I just started training because I had a bad knee in Beijing. It’s been really special, amazing, the crowds were so good, thank you Singapore for having the women’s tennis here, we can’t wait for the next four years to keep coming back here.’
That would make Serena 37 by the end of her love affair with Singapore. But with this particular sporting warrior, you can’t rule anything out.
Halep said:’It has been an amazing week for me so I can’t be sad that I lost. Congrats Serena, you are the best, congrats for ending the year as world number one again.’
It is the fourth time Williams has achieved that feat, yet the self-confessed “victory junky” shows no less hunger, despite an inconsistent 2014 by her own high standards.
She came out for battle with such an intimidating air about her that Halep would have needed super-human mental strength not to feel the effects of that early psychological assault. At the end of it all, however, having taken her revenge, Williams couldn’t have been kinder.
‘Simona is making me a better player,’ she concluded. ‘I really love that.’
And the passionate Singapore crowd loved those words too. They have been the perfect hosts and perfect fans at this superbly organised tournament. Their enthusiasm has been second to none.
Well done Singapore! Come to Wimbledon and bring that passion to the most famous tournament of them all. We will do all we can to make you feel just as welcome!