Simona Halep says controlling her nerves and forgetting about who she was playing enabled her to play the match of her life and win Wimbledon.
The Romanian’s 56-minute 6-2 6-2 demolition of Serena Williams earned her a second Grand Slam title.
“The nerves were positive this time. I felt them in the stomach,” she said. “I always play well when I have emotions.
“I didn’t think at all against who I play. I’ve always been intimidated a little bit when I faced Serena.”
Williams had been the pre-match favourite to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title but could not find an answer to Halep’s brilliant returning game and movement around the court.
“I decided before the match that I’m going to focus on myself and on the final of Grand Slam, not on her,” said Halep, 27.
“That’s why I was able to play my best, to be relaxed, and to be able to be positive and confident against her.
“I’m very sure that was the best match of my life.”
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Past experience helps Halep to victory
Before winning the French Open in 2018 for her maiden Grand Slam title, Halep had often been viewed as something of a choker having lost in three previous major finals.
But she said those experiences had helped her here – on a surface that, as a player of 1.68m, she never thought she would be able to win on against “all these players that are very tall and serving with a lot of power”.
“The finals I lost in the past helped me to be different when I face this moment,” she said. “It’s never easy to face a Grand Slam final. You can get intimidated by the moment. You can get nervous, too nervous.
“I have learned that it’s a normal match, not thinking that much about the trophy, just going there and try to be the best as you can.
“So I did that. I said that every time I would play a final of Grand Slam, I will do exactly the same thing. So today I did it.”
A trophy – and a dream membership to club
While Halep fell to her knees to celebrate her win and kissed the trophy repeatedly, she seemed almost as pleased to be wearing a little badge that meant she was now a member of the All England Club.
“It feels good,” was the first thing she said when she walked into her news conference pointing at the purple-and-white round badge.
“I wanted this badly. When I started the tournament, 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 [Wimbledon chairman] Philip [Brook]. He told me: ‘Any time you want, you can come, have dinner, have lunch, playing a little bit tennis.’ I will come for sure.”
She was equally thrilled to have delivered on something her mum told her when she was growing up – that if she wanted to do “something really special in tennis” she would need to play in a Wimbledon final.
Watching her daughter do that – and win – her mum Tania had no more words.
“She didn’t say anything because she was crying,” smiled Halep. “I just hugged her and I kissed her. I knew she’s very emotional. I just told her that we’ll talk later.”