LONDON: With last year’s French Open, her first grand slam title, under her belt, Simona Halep decided that 2019 would be “a chill year”.
Then, on Saturday, she stepped on to Wimbledon’s Centre Court and obliterated the great Serena Williams 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes to win the final.
The irony was not lost on the Romanian former world number one as she drank in her success.
“After winning the (2018) French Open I took a big holiday, a long holiday, and then I said it is a chill year,” she grinned.
“But I meant I wanted to relax as a person, not as a player,” she laughed. “I still work hard every day, every match, every tournament. I’ve been professional all the time.”
That much was abundantly evident on Saturday as she scorched the greatest female tennis player in the last 50 years and the most successful in terms of grand slam titles in the Open era.
On the day, Williams, who was chasing her 24th grand slam win, was relegated to the role of bit-part actor as Halep produced an extraordinary performance.
“I’m very sure that was the best match of my life,” said Halep, who made just three unforced errors in the one-sided contest.
Halep’s watching mother, Tania, was lost for words, having instilled in her daughter from a young age that to succeed at tennis would mean reaching a Wimbledon final.
“She didn’t say anything because she was crying,” Halep smiled. “Just I hugged her and I kissed her. I knew she’s very emotional. I just told her that we’ll talk later.”
It was the seeming absence of nerves which impressed most, even if the Romanian said her stomach had been unwell before the contest.
“It’s never easy to face a Grand Slam final. You can get intimidated by the moment. You can get nervous, too nervous,” she said.
“I have learned that it’s a normal match. Once you win one you have the feeling you know how it is. You treat it a little bit easier, let’s say. It’s never easy but you treat it a little bit easier.
“Yeah, I was motivated after I won the first one that there is another chance for one more.”
The Wimbledon championships are hosted by one of the world’s most exclusive tennis clubs and winning a title confers lifetime membership.
“Feels good,” Halep smiled as she tapped her newly minted, purple All England Club members’ 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 (club chairman) Philip (Brook). He told me, ‘Any time you want, you can come, have dinner, have lunch, play a little bit of tennis’. I will come for sure,” she laughed.