Wimbledon final preview: Serena Williams vs Simona Halep
Halep and Williams, pictured here at the 2014 WTA Finals, meet for the 11th time tomorrow. Williams leads the head to head 9-1.

After two weeks of action at the All England Club, it will be 11th seed and seven-time champion Serena Williams taking on seventh seed and former French Open champion Simona Halep for the title at Wimbledon this year.

It has not always been an easy road for either Halep or Williams on the grass this year, though both have impressed, with Williams coming through a crowded top section to reach her 31st Grand Slam final, whilst Halep has demonstrated some of her best ever tennis on grass to reach her fifth Grand Slam final, and her first since winning her maiden major title at the French Open last season.

Williams dominates the head-to-head, losing once in just ten matches to the Romanian, and goes into this match as the favorite, though it has not always been straightforward. Halep’s one win was a dominant one, dropping just two games in a crushing win at the WTA Finals in 2014, whilst their past two encounters (and four meetings overall) have gone to three sets. Williams prevailed in their last meeting at the Australian Open this year, winning 6-4 in the decider of a high-quality encounter.

Williams and Halep following their clash at the Australian Open earlier this year (Getty Images/
Williams and Halep following their clash at the Australian Open earlier this year (Getty Images/Fred Lee)

The winner of this final will claim the Venus Rosewater Dish and 2000 ranking points, with Halep guaranteed to be ranked fourth and Williams guaranteed to be ranked eighth after the tournament. A win for the American would see her equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, whilst a win for Halep would see her become the first Romanian woman to win multiple Grand Slam singles titles.

Road to the Final

Williams came into this tournament with very little match practice, and looked rusty at times in wins over Giulia Gatto-Monticone and Kaja Juvan in the early rounds, the latter win coming from a set down. However, more impressive wins over 18th seed Julia Goerges and 30th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, two women she had unblemished records against, showed an improvement in the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s form.

Arguably her toughest match came in the last eight against her compatriot, Alison Riske. One of the in-form players on grass, Riske pushed Williams like no others have this tournament, though Williams raised her level when it mattered in prevail in three tight sets. Following that, she crushed Barbora Strycova in less than an hour to reach her 11th Wimbledon final, being in impressive form in the final few matches.

Serena Williams during her dominant semifinal win versus Barbora Strycova (Getty Images/Shi Teng)
Serena Williams during her dominant semifinal win versus Barbora Strycova (Getty Images/Shi Teng)

Meanwhile, Halep also had a tricky start, overcoming tough matches against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and compatriot Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first two rounds, though surprisingly breezed past former world number one Victoria Azarenka to reach the second week, where she eased past Coco Gauff to make the last eight.

Her quarterfinal encounter was against Zhang Shuai, a woman who has beaten her at the Australian Open before, and she was a break down in the first set, though roared back to reach the semifinals in straight sets, where she eased past eighth seed Elina Svitolina in a comprehensive performance to reach the final, looking in improved form over the past few rounds.

Analysis

One big advantage that Williams has, particularly on this surface, is that she is the more powerful of the two, and is the more consistently aggressive of the two. She will look to dictate as much as possible and will likely dominate the majority of rallies, though must be careful of overpressing and rushing in rallies, particularly against someone who moves as well as Halep does. In recent years, Halep has become more aggressive, and though she will likely not be dictating too much in this final, she must attack at any opportunity she gets.

Another key factor in this final will be movement. Halep is one of the quickest players on the WTA Tour, and is certainly one of the best defenders. The Romanian will look to frustrate Williams and force errors out of the American by continuing to get one extra ball back, as well as try to move Williams out of position. However, Williams has been moving better in her past few matches, particularly in her last four clash, and she will be more than comfortable in engaging in lengthy rallies, and in moving into the net to finish off points.

Simona Halep will look to defend as well as usual to frustrate her opponent (Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)
Simona Halep will look to defend as well as usual to frustrate her opponent (Getty Images/Clive Brunskill)

The surface itself may play a factor as well. Grass is widely seen as a fast and aggressive surface, which certainly favours Williams in this match-up. However, several players have commented that the courts are playing slowly this year, which may work in Halep’s favor, giving her more time on the ball, and also perhaps taking a little sting off her opponent’s pacey serve and groundstrokes.

Assessment

Williams is the favorite to win here for a variety of reasons; she has a comfortable head-to-head against Halep, whilst she is in her eleventh final here and has won the title seven times before, whilst this is the Romanian’s maiden appearance in a final at this tournament. However, Williams was also the favorite last year, where her lack of match practice leading in was exposed by Angelique Kerber, who like Halep is a strong mover. Not only that, the Romanian has survived, on paper, the tougher road of the two, and was striking the ball so sweetly against Svitolina in the semifinal.

Expect several long and entertaining rallies, and if history says anything, this could be a classic encounter; all four of Halep’s four previous slam finals have been memorable three-setters. The Romanian has a real shot here, having never played so well on grass, but at times in the past few matches Williams has looked at full flow on her beloved grass courts, and she seemingly has a slight edge coming in

Prediction: Serena Williams in three sets

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