Simona Halep became the first Romanian to win Wimbledon when she stunned the American 6-2 6-2 in what had to be one of the finest performances in a final in the tournament’s recent history.
“She really played out of her mind,” Williams told the crowd.
Petra Kvitova’s 6-3 6-0 victory over Eugenie Bouchard in 2014 sprung to mind.
Halep needed one more minute than the Czech, 56, to see off the 37-year-old Williams, who fell in a third straight grand slam final for the first time in her career.
Williams has been short of matches due to a knee injury this season but given the competitor she is, will surely feel disappointed by the outcome.
Perhaps the US Open is where Williams will tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 majors.
Watching Saturday from the Royal Box were Williams’ friend, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, whom Halep met afterward.
Halep is a different type of player to the attacking Kvitova, a superb counterpuncher.
And unlike Kvitova, grass has never been her favorite surface. She broke through to win the French Open on clay in 2018, for example.
But Halep was so good in her first Wimbledon final it took her seven games to make one unforced error.
Altogether she committed a paltry three unforced errors, combined with 13 winners.
Her athleticism and retrieving perhaps destabilized Williams, contributing to the top server women’s tennis has ever seen hitting a mere two aces.
Halep may own a 2-9 record against Williams but both her wins have been resounding, the other being a 6-0 6-2 result at the WTA finals in 2014.
The world No. 7 said she had a few butterflies before the encounter yet it didn’t show. She broke Williams in the first game, part of a run where she claimed consecutive points.
Halep showed why she’s one of the best movers around when she chased a ball in her forehand corner, then finished with a sublime backhand cross court near the net.
Williams knew all about Halep but in case she needed another reminder, that was it.
Halep got some luck in the third game, seeing her ball off the net cord stay inside the court while Williams’ reply clipped the tape and landed on her side.
Also one of tennis’ fiercest returners, Halep earned a double break advantage with a backhand return winner down the line.
It was all working for Halep as he struck an ace to get to 4-0. Williams — who led the event in aces and hit the fastest serve so far — didn’t hit an ace until set two.
Halep’s first unforced error came at 5-1, 15-0 — a forehand into the net — but it certainly didn’t put her off.
Two points later summarized the opener.
Williams crushed a backhand cross court. Maybe not expecting it to come back, even from the speedy Halep, it did, and Williams hit a backhand into the net.
Through five games in the second set, Halep made just one unforced error. Yes, she continued to be stingy.
Halep dug out from 15-30 at 0-1, then broke for 3-2 when Williams put a backhand long.
A seemingly simple point for some with Halep out of position, but the 27-year-old’s retrieving throughout surely prompted the miss.
Halep then saved the next game from 15-30 to get to 4-2 and broke again for 5-2.
Williams’ serve finally clicked to prolong that game but when they were embroiled in baseline rallies, Halep won the majority of the points, mirroring the match.
And a first Wimbledon title was officially hers when Williams’ forehand found the net.
Halep sunk to her knees and took it all in for a second.
Her display was one for the ages.