Holy smoke! Has a woman ever moved better on a grass court than Simona Halep did in her victory over Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final on Saturday? I’m not sure that I can think of anyone who has covered the ground in the way that Halep did.
It was a take-your-breath-away performance. Her speed was incredible, though I was also taken aback by the way she was able to his big shots when she was out of position. Serena tried to pull her opponent out wide, but Halep kept making her hit the extra ball.
The speed with which Halep moved reminded me a little bit of the way that Lleyton Hewitt used to cover the court, though I’m not sure that Hewitt came up with as many great shots on the run as Halep did.
Her all-round game was simply magnificent. Can you believe the stats? She made just three unforced errors compared with Serena’s 25. Man, that’s crazy.
The serve is often Serena’s biggest weapon but Halep handled it superbly, moving back on the first serve and moving forward on the second.
I think Serena may have been a little nervous, but I wonder if she was also surprised at the way Halep came at her. To be blunt, I don’t think whether she was nervous or not made a dime of difference to the outcome. It was great tennis for the world to see.
A lot of credit has to go to Darren Cahill, who was Halep’s coach until he decided at the end of last year that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He helped her mentally to become a champion. I remember speaking to the two of them at the US Open and it was clear to me then how he had helped her to believe that she’s a winner.
We should also play tribute to Ion Tiriac, one of the great figures of Romanian tennis, who has always supported her. I bet there’s one hell of a party going on in Romania right now.
The perfect finish: Before The Championships began I wrote here that Roger Federer was the player to beat in the men’s singles. As the final approaches, I’m not so sure. I find it very hard to choose between the Fed and Novak Djokovic. It’s a match-up between the player most would consider to be the greatest of all time and the guy I would regard as the most complete player ever to pick up a tennis racket.
Djokovic just has no weaknesses. With any other player you can pinpoint a part of their game that might give you some hope as an opponent, but Djokovic simply does everything superbly.
I think Federer will play a bit differently to the way he played against Nadal. He hit very few sliced backhands in the semi-finals because he wanted to keep Nadal pegged back, but against Djokovic I think he will mix his game up more. I expect him to play a bit of serve-and-volley and chip-and-charge.
Federer will know that he can’t win from the baseline. He’ll want to keep the points short because the longer the rallies go on, it favours Djokovic.
I expect Djokovic just to play his normal game. He’ll be aggressive and will probably target Federer’s backhand. I think one of the ways to beat Federer is to hit the ball wide to his forehand and follow up with a shot wide to his backhand. It’s when he has to hit his backhand on the run that he can be exposed.
My A-Z of the IMG – looking back over my life at the IMG Academy in Florida which I founded in 1978.
X is for Belgium’s Xavier Malisse, who came to the academy on a full scholarship when he was 17.
Holy mackerel, Xavier was some player. Not many others could match his natural talent, but he lacked the focus to be consistently successful as a pro. He reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2004, when he was 23, but that was the only time he went beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam event.
Y is for Yuri Sharapov, who brought his daughter Maria to the academy when she was just eight years old. Yuri, who didn’t speak a word of English when he arrived in Florida, used to watch over all her practice sessions. He would stand there taking notes on everything he saw. Yuri guided his daughter’s career very wisely. He and I had our disagreements, but I think he always knew that we both wanted the same thing: whatever was best for Maria.
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