Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep: Keys to the Match, Predictions for Wimbledon Final

Serena Williams and Simona Halep will face off on Saturday with the Wimbledon trophy on the line. Williams will be aiming for her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Margaret Court for the all-time record. Halep is going for her second major. 

Williams holds a 9-1 advantage over Halep head-to-head, including winning their lone meeting on grass at Wimbledon 2011. But that was eight years ago, and both players were dominant in their semifinal victories. 

Our SI Tennis crew breaks down the final. 

What are the keys to the match for Halep?

Jon Wertheim: It sounds trite, but Halep needs to stay aggressive—as she was in the semis—and not let Serena bully her around the court. She also needs to stay positive and remind herself that A. She has won a major more recently than Serena B. Serena has not met the moment in her last two major finals and C. she is the superior mover. If this match turns into either a track race or a cross country meet, she will be well-served.

Stanley Kay: Halep is just 1–9 against Williams over her career, and that one win came in a round-robin at the 2014 WTA Finals. (A few days later, Williams beat Halep 6–3, 6–0 in the championship match.) Halep is a clear underdog on Saturday, and to win she’ll have to serve exceptionally well to put pressure on Williams and her service games. That will prove challenging, as Halep’s serve isn’t especially formidable, but a consistent first serve will be vital—her second serve is no match for Williams’s power. She’ll also try to extend points and move Williams around the court; Halep’s exceptional defense can put pressure on Williams and force her into mistakes. 

Daniel Rapaport: She has to start well. The whole world expects Serena to have a historic afternoon on Centre Court, and if Williams gets off to a fast start, her victory will feel almost inevitable. As Jon mentioned, Serena hasn't responded particularly well to pressure in her two Grand Slam finals P.O. (post-Olympia), so she would do extremely well to get her nose out in front. 

What are the keys to the match for Williams?

JW: Approximate her level in the semifinals, when she played a matched worthy of the Greatest Hits LP. It was just a dominant performance. We've seen this time and again: Serena rounds into form as a Grand Slam progresses. But this time it's been especially stark. She started the tournament looking like a player unsure of her movement and ball striking. For the last few rounds, she's been indomitable.

SK: Tactically, this is a mismatch; Serena’s power should overwhelm Halep. But the 23-time Grand Slam champion has lost four of her last six major finals, including the last two. There’s always going to be pressure in a Grand Slam final, but Williams can alleviate it somewhat with her strong serve, a weapon that will help her keep points short and avoid the baseline rallies that Halep desires. Even on Halep’s serve, Williams needs to play aggressively and use her superior power to control points. Halep will try to test Williams’s movement, but she won’t be able to do that if Williams starts hitting winners off Halep’s second serve. 

DR: Just play aggressively. She has the firepower to play Halep—and basically every other player—off the court. If she plays this match on her terms, she wins relatively easily. Keep the points short, dictate with the serve, that sort of thing. Also, she needs to not think about the magnitude of what she can accomplish with a victory. Going to dive deep into the cliche bucket here: Play your game. 

Who wins?

JW: Serena in three sets. 

SK: Serena in straight sets. 

DR: What Stan said. 

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