LONDON: Serena Williams made it look easy in the Wimbledon semi-finals. What she really cares about, of course, is what comes next.
That’s why she puts in all the work. Why she keeps at it with everything she’s already won, everything she’s already accomplished.
Serena is once again on the verge of an eighth Wimbledon championship and 24th Grand Slam title, moving into the final at the All England Club with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over an overmatched Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday.
On Saturday, Serena will take on seventh-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over eighth seed Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine in the first semi-final under a cloudy sky at Centre Court.
It’ll be the 11th final at the All England Club for Williams and the first for Halep, whose only major trophy came at the French Open last year.
“I look forward to it,” Serena said.
Why wouldn’t she? She owns a 9-1 career record against Halep.
Still, the 37-year-old American also knows that she’s been here before: In 2018, her first season back on tour after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, Serena reached the finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open but lost both.
That has left her Grand Slam total at 23, a record for the professional era and one fewer than Margaret Court accumulated while part of her career against amateur competition.
“I have a great job and I love what I do,” Serena said, “and I’m still pretty good at what I do, I guess.” Sure, Serena. Just pretty good.
It’s been an up-and-down year for her because of illness and injury, limiting Serena to 12 matches until last week. After a third-round loss at Roland Garros on June 1, she stayed in France for medical treatment and finally felt pain-free while preparing for Wimbledon in England.
“It’s definitely a lot better,” Serena said. “Every match, I know that I’m improving.”
It seemed as if Halep might be in for a long afternoon when her semi-final against Svitolina began with a pair of games encompassing 32 points across 20 minutes.
Halep excels at this type of play, more frequently seen on clay courts than grass, and soon enough was on her way to her fifth Grand Slam final.
Svitolina had never been to the final four at any Slam. With her boyfriend, former top-10 player Gael Monfils, in the stands, Svitolina made things competitive enough at the outset.
Five of the first 11 points lasted at least 10 strokes; two went 23.
Svitolina even earned three break chances in that opening game, but Halep eventually held there on the 16th point. Another game of the same length followed, and there again were three break points, except the difference was that Halep converted her last when Svitolina pushed a backhand wide.
While Svitolina would break back at love, that was pretty much the end of her challenge to Halep, who scrambled to cover the court so well, took balls early and created angles that earned her points.
“She played unbelievable today,” Svitolina said. “She was moving really good, striking the ball perfectly.” That style of play serves the Romanian so well at Roland Garros, where she was the runner-up twice in addition to last year’s title. Halep also reached an Australian Open final.
The former world number one never had that kind of success at Wimbledon until now. Halep did get to the semi-finals at the All England Club in 2014, but hadn’t been back to that round since.
She wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip away. Her play was intense. So was her body language, including when Halep looked up at her coach, yelled and extended an arm in the first set’s final game.
By then, she was in control.