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Navratilova: Serena knows Simona is not going to beat herself



Martina Navratilova considers the challenge posed by Simona Halep to Serena Williams's quest for a 24th singles Slam in her wtatennis.com preview of the 2019 Wimbledon ladies' singles final.

Martina Navratilova

July 12, 2019

Playing for history can be hard for an athlete. It can weigh heavily on you, with the pressure growing and growing. But it is history - and the quest for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title - that has kept Serena Williams hungry for tennis.

That hunger, that desire, has brought her to Saturday's Wimbledon final against Romania's Simona Halep, which is the American's match to win or lose. Ever since Serena returned to tennis last year, after taking a break to becoming a mother, the carrot has been the thought of equalling Margaret Court's all-time record.

Read more: 23 and counting - Serena's singles Slam titles

This will be the third time that Serena has had a match for a 24th major, after losing to Angelique Kerber in last year's Wimbledon final and to Naomi Osaka in last year's US Open final, but right now she is playing as well as she ever has. Serena is so great on the grass that Centre Court at Wimbledon is almost like a second home for her.

If Serena is healthy on this stuff, she's so hard to beat. No one else has Serena's ability to play herself into shape, as in tennis shape, during a Grand Slam tournament, and here she has been helped by competing in the mixed doubles with Andy Murray, which gave her a few more hours on the match court.

In her singles semifinal against Barbora Strycova, Serena was playing so well that you couldn't just see that quality, you could hear it, too. When Serena is getting hold of the ball and hitting the ball cleanly, when it is popping off the strings, her shots even sound different.

Read more: Serena Williams soars into Wimbledon final

In her last two Grand Slam finals against Kerber and Osaka, Serena has faced a couple of uncomfortable opponents, but I feel as though Simona is a more comfortable adversary for her. But Serena knows that she has to beat Simona. Simona's not going to beat herself.

If Serena wants to win, she has to keep on playing in the same way she did in her semifinal. She's doing everything well at the moment, including moving well, which allows her to get into position properly, cutting down on the unforced errors.

Serena can also push opponents and have them rocking on their heels without taking any chances. She doesn't have to hit her shots into dangerous spots on the court. If she hits the ball safely to within six feet of the sideline and the baseline, that's still a forcing shot because of the pace of her ball.

She is making her opponent move, and the ball is traveling so quickly that they don't have time to get there and get set. It's easier for Serena to have opponents on the defensive. When another player swings at 80 per cent of their potential, and Serena swings at 80 per cent of her potential, Serena's ball is 10 per cent faster.

On top of that, Serena never hits the same ball twice; she always has her opponent moving rather than waiting for the ball.

When Serena is playing well, she jumps on your serve, so you're on the defensive. It's hard to get into rallies with her. And when you can't get into rallies with Serena, she will beat you, because she has that much more power.

Read more: Rivalry Record - Serena Williams vs Simona Halep


If Simona, who is playing in her first Wimbledon final, is going to beat Serena, she needs to serve well and really mix it up. I would throw in some body serves. Serena likes to step into the return. But you can jam her with a body serve, which she doesn't like. Serena stands close to the baseline for her return, which makes the body serve more effective because she has less time to get out of the way. That takes away the angle and the power.

I would also advise Simona - though I know this is going to be a tall order - to play down the line rather than going crosscourt. With crosscourt, you wait for the ball. Everyone cheats crosscourt, but Serena particularly. When you hit crosscourt to Serena she doesn't have to move - she's already there. When you hit down the line to her, she has to move to the ball.
Simona has to get the first strike because when she's on the defensive, Serena will get closer to the baseline, and it will become that much harder to go down the line. The ball will be getting there too quickly, and Simona will be pushed back, making it harder to time the shot and change the direction.

Read more: Halep solves Svitolina, surges into first Wimbledon final

Above all, Simona needs to stay with Serena. Serena is an amazing front runner. When she gets ahead, she relaxes and doesn't feel the pressure as much.

I was 37, getting on for 38, when I played in my last Grand Slam final, at the 1994 Wimbledon, but Serena, who turns 38 in September, has now beaten my record and on Saturday will become the oldest woman to appear in a major singles final in the Open Era.

Serena is a much younger 37-year-old than I was. When I was her age, I had played many more matches than her, so she's much fresher in the legs. And the way she plays, the points don't last long.

If Serena doesn't win her 24th Grand Slam title on Saturday, she will have another chance at the US Open this summer, and then some more opportunities next year as well. There's no reason why she can't be back here at Wimbledon next summer, when she'll be almost 39.

There are only two things that can stop her: a lack of desire and Father Time. And those two factors don't seem to be bothering her right now.

[WTA Tennis]
 

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Halep doesn't handle pressure that well (though she has improved) so that fact that so much attention will be on Serena and #24 will actually help her.
She is the higher ranked player but she will almost be seen as the underdog and that will free her up and allow her to play her brand of tenacious tennis.
I definitely don't think it's a lock for Serena but she has the ability to play well enough to win it.
 

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You never know who will choke. Either might. Halep was pretty tough against Kerber in the 2018 AO SF. But not in the Ostapenko Paris final
 

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She gifted a final to Mertens of all people, she can always beat herself.
 

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Williams v Halep H2H: 9-1 Williams; Williams is 3-0 against Halep in Grand Slam matches.

Halep's lone win came on the hard court in Singapore at the WTA Finals in 2014 (6-0, 6-2)

Williams beat Halep seven times on hard court, one time on clay (Rome 2013) and once on grass at Wimbledon in 2011 (3-6,6-2, 6-1)

Possibility and Probability Dept:

Is it possible that Simona will come up with a game plan to counteract Serena's power and savvy grass court maneuvers. Of course it's possible; anytime a match commences the possibility of a win against a strong opponent, no matter how remote it may appear, is always present.

But is it probable that Simona will upset Serena? This is where the past looms large and the H2H is making a very pointed statement. No, the record doesn't preclude an upset... but you really have to respect the record and draw your conclusions from there.

We'll soon see what shakes out.

Compare the contestants at:
https://www.wtatennis.com/headtohead
 

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She was giving "How to beat Serena" advice to Strycova's team.
Now she is providing some for Halep's team.
She never says what Serena's got to do to win. :) :)
Serena is a LEGEND. She's always playing against her opponent + all the EXPERTS + a few shady linesmen.
They have been doing the bolded for years; nothing new at all. Nav isn't the only one. She is working up Halep to make Nav's secret wishes for Serena come through. Most of the time, it is irrelevant since it is the player who must execute on the court and many of them couldn't since Serena's game have something to say about it. So many insecurities in some people. Nav and the Czech players are of the same butthurt camp. Always pressed and all particularly Kvitova y the Pliskovas.
 

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Simona needs to not only serve and return brilliantly herself, but she needs to keep Serena moving and off-balance CONSTANTLY from the ground, point after point, to even have a chance at winning.

That is a tall order. Mama Reenie is BACK and feeling her powers—I have a feeling she is going to be a holy terror in the final and utterly destroy Simona, 2 and 2, or something similar.

The only thing that could interfere with her momentum is if Halep really takes it to Serena from the get-go and makes her move A LOT, especially to that backhand side, as Navrat indicated; dtl plays, smart drop shots, mix-ups with slice ... all in addition to maintaining her depth and gritty consistency.

I just see it as a staggeringly tall order for Halep. Not impossible, certainly, but Serena owns her mentally.

Simona will have to produce a truly insane, pit-bull terrier fight, with extra smarts and craft. At the same time, if Serena has anything close to a flat day, she could be in big trouble.

Hopefully it’ll be a fine contest. I’d love to see Serena at least equal Court’s Slam count, even if she never surpasses it.

We’ll see tomorrow.
 

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Simona wants to win Wimbledon for her mom. She has pressure and she tanks under pressure. So I don’t agree that she won’t beat herself. That said. Serena can also blow her off the court so......
 

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Strychova and Halep need all the help they can get two lightweights against a heavyweight and I mean by weight and power not as human beings. That is why the H2HI is so one sides it will take a miracle for Halep to win.

Of course the Czechs can talk with Martina and ask for advice, she has a Czech passport and speaks czech. BTW Martina said for Wimbledon started that Serena is always the favorite as she comes to a tournament. Why does Serena needs her PR machine so much to make right wat is wrong Thieme incident, Osaka in Harper's Bazar after nearly a year.
 

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Strychova and Halep need all the help they can get two lightweights against a heavyweight and I mean by weight and power not as human beings. That is why the H2HI is so one sides it will take a miracle for Halep to win.

Of course the Czechs can talk with Martina and ask for advice, she has a Czech passport and speaks czech. BTW Martina said for Wimbledon started that Serena is always the favorite as she comes to a tournament. Why does Serena needs her PR machine so much to make right wat is wrong Thieme incident, Osaka in Harper's Bazar after nearly a year.
She's a naturalized citizen so why isn't she talking with Serena, her fellow American? As for PR, serena has her side and is allowed to give it so that a full picture is shown and not a one sided hit job by critics.
 
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