SI-MO-NA…UN-BE-LIEV-A-BLE (Occasional Sports Moment #36)

Remember folks, you can always come here for the news first. Today, Simona Halep’s “mini-revolution” reached a peak that stunned even me.

I’ve seen Serena Williams play at least four hundred tennis matches. I’ve seen her lose occasionally, even be blown out occasionally (once by Simona Halep…the only time in ten previous meetings Halep had beaten her**). The 2019 Wimbledon final played today, which Halep won 6-2, 6-2, was the first time I felt her will break–saw her simply reach a point where it was palpable that she no longer believed she could win.

All it took was Halep playing the finest match I’ve ever seen on a big stage. She made only three unforced errors (a record for a major final and almost unthinkable against a hard-hitting all-time power player on grass…and double again for a player who comes from a tiny country that doesn’t have a single grass court to train on). She out-served the greatest server in the history of the women’s game (and the greatest clutch server in the history of the game, period), despite possessing only a solid serve herself. And, most of all, she used the foot-speed which, among other things, I wrote about here, to shrink the court to the size of a postage stamp.

Serena has a pattern so well-known even tennis commentators, the least observant people on Planet Earth, have noticed it and marked it down. Get her down and she starts to hit big, produce winners, and let loose long primal screams that allow her to dominate the available space psychically as well as physically. If, by chance, her big shots miss and she gets in real trouble, she dials it back, plays safely down the middle with depth and precision and hangs in enough rallies to get her feet back under her.

She tried both tactics today…only instead of missing big shots, those big shots–the ones that, time and again, have announced Serena Has Arrived–came back.

With interest.

Time and again.

And dialing it back (which Serena admitted in her post match press conference she tried as well) is never going to be a tactic that works against a red-hot Simona Halep.

One of the announcers said it must feel like Serena was “playing two Simonas.”

That’s certainly what it felt like watching.

Who knows. Maybe it isn’t a “mini” revolution after all.

Maybe it’s like “minor” genius and there really is no such thing.

Judge for yourself:

**Quote of the tournament from Halep, when asked how she had prepared herself mentally for the match: “I thought about the time I beat her…The other nine times didn’t count.”)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Long may she run.

(For additional insight into Halep’s physical and spiritual journey, here’s my favorite tennis blogger on today’s match.)

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