Serena powers into 11th
Arthur Kapetanakis | July 11, 2019
Serena Williams powered into her 11th Wimbledon ladies’ singles final on Thursday, dominating first-time Slam semifinalist Barbora Strycova, 6-1, 6-2, in 59 minutes on Centre Court.
Playing her best tennis of what had been an injury-plagued 2019, a healthy Williams will face an equally impressive Simona Halep in Saturday’s final. It will be Williams’ third Slam final since her return from maternity leave, and her third opportunity to match Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
Strycova kept the early exchanges of both sets competitive in the day’s second semifinal, but the Czech had no answers once the seven-time Wimbledon singles champion began to impose her will. After splitting a pair of service holds to start the match, the American raced through the next five games to take the opening set. ADVERTISEMENT Another five-game blitz sealed the match from 1-2 in the second.
Under fire from 28 Williams winners, Styrcova’s crafty game never truly troubled the 37-year-old. Despite just four aces, Williams was especially dominant on her first serve; she dropped just three first-serve points for an 89-percent win rate.
Frighteningly for Halep, the woman who hit 19 aces in Tuesday's quarterfinals still feels short of her best.
"I don’t know if I’ve had my best serves this tournament," said Williams, who set a WTA single-tournament record with 102 aces en route to her 2012 Wimbledon title. "I’ve had some big ones. But I’m just now starting to use my legs again, two weeks ago in the tournament. Then I was like, 'Oh, my God, I forgot about my serve.' And it was kind of back, and it felt good. It’s just really about rediscovering my technique on my serve and how I use my body and how I use every part of it. And just really know that I can still improve."
Williams also won the net battle, even against an opponent ranked No. 3 on the WTA doubles tour. A 14-time women’s doubles Grand Slam champ herself (and a two-time mixed winner), Williams won 13 of her 16 net points on the day.
"I don’t attack the net that much, and I try to and I want to," said Williams, crediting her Round-of-16 mixed doubles run alongside Andy Murray for her sharpness in the frontcourt. "I promise you, when I hit a volley I was like, 'Would I have made that if I didn’t play doubles? I don’t think so.'"
The focus now shifts to Williams’ long-standing quest for Grand Slam No. 24. An in-form Halep, who was the WTA No. 1 as recently as January, will provide the final hurdle. The No. 7-seeded Romanian dismissed No. 8 Elina Svitolina, 6-1, 6-3, to open Thursday’s play on Centre Court.
Williams holds a 9-1 career head-to-head advantage over Halep, though the one loss—a 6-0, 6-4 result at the 2014 WTA Championships—sticks out.
"I think the biggest key in our matches is the loss that I had," she said. "I never forgot it and she played unbelievable. That makes me know that that level that she played at, she can get there again. And so I have to be better than that."
Saturday’s women’s final will air on ESPN from 8 a.m. ET.
At the junior level, a trio of Americans also notched singles wins on Thursday. At the quarterfinal stage, top-seeded Emma Navarro and No. 10 Alexa Noel advanced to keep hopes of an all-U.S. girls' singles final alive. Navarro topped Japan’s Natsumi Kawaguchi, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, while Noel got past Priska Madelyn Nugroho of Indonesia, 7-6, 6-2.
On the boy’s side, No. 4-seeded Martin Damm—son of the former Czech pro of the same name—booked his semifinal place with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz Garfia. Damm also advanced to junior doubles quarterfinals, teaming with Toby Alex Kodat as the No.3-seeded duo in the boys' competition.
While Williams has Friday off to prep for what could be a historic final, the junior singles semis and doubles quarters will be contested at the All England Club.