In her wtatennis.com column, Martina Navratilova discusses Simona Halep's victory over Serena Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final and the potential boost to the Romanian's career. She also considers the challenge facing Serena during the North American swing.
Martina Navratilova
July 18, 2019

LONDON, Great Britain - Playing near-perfect tennis in a Wimbledon final could, and perhaps should, be more of a life-changing event for Simona Halep than when she won her first Grand Slam title at last year's French Open. 

The result, and the way she played against Serena Williams, should give Simona a huge boost of confidence, not only this summer for the North American hard-court swing culminating with the US Open, but for the rest of her tennis playing years.

Winning a Wimbledon final inside an hour, and dropping just four games against Serena, should make Simona realise she is on the right path with her tennis and the way she is handling her emotions and attitude.

Read more: 'She's got it all' - Djokovic pays tribute to Halep

If she wants to continue in this kind of form, she just needs to keep doing what she did against Serena on Centre Court. Piece of cake, right? Of course not, but Simona doesn't need to do anything differently. And even if things don't go her way,

Simona should now have a lot more belief in herself in all her matches. She is now one of the favourites to WTA World No.1 at the end of the year. 

Simona likes to play it, as is her nature, safe. But she had a positive and, more importantly, an offensive mindset in the Wimbledon final, and if that worked so well against Serena, how will that work against everyone else? Even better, I would say. It would be silly not to try to replicate that mindset. 

Of course Simona is not always going to play as well as she did against Serena. She will make more unforced errors, that she cannot control. But she can have that same mindset, that is completely under her control.

How great is that? There was no let-up from Simona against Serena. I think if and when she goes into her shell during a match and plays defensively for one or two points, she'll realise it much quicker and say to herself: "Wait a minute, what am I doing?" I think the Wimbledon final will have that kind of impact on her. 

Read more: Simona Halep steps out for Wimbledon Champions' dinner

Serena was surprised at how many balls came back with interest. She wasn't able to go on the offensive the way she normally does. I thought it would be easier for Serena to break Simona's serve rather than the other way around.

But Simona served extremely well and mixed up her locations beautifully. She had a real solid game plan and she executed it. She knew what she needed to do and then she went out and did it. She never got nervous. She forced the issue with Serena. 

The most essential part of Simona’s game plan was that she forced Serena to run, which most players can’t do. Simona made that possible thanks to her amazing speed, which gave her a little more time to absorb Serena's power and thus she could redirect the balls and make Serena move. Which in turn meant that Serena couldn't hit as good a ball or even missed. 

Simona was pretty pressure-free. She had the luxury of playing Serena rather than the Wimbledon final. A lot of people wilt when playing in a Wimbledon final - they play the Wimbledon final rather than the opponent.

When you're playing Serena, you can't afford to think of anything else but playing the ball. In a way I think that that really helped Simona. She stuck to her game plan because there was no other option and it worked out really beautifully for her. 

Read more: Story of the Wimbledon 2019 final in pictures

If she is healthy, as a coach I would like to see Serena playing two, maybe even three, tournaments before the US Open. She needs to play more matches if she is to win the US Open, which would give her a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

When you're playing for history, it adds a dimension that most mortals don't have to deal with, and that brings extra nerves, but Serena was also affected by not having played enough matches before Wimbledon. 

It's now a pattern that Serena plays well to get to a Grand Slam final. And then when she gets into the final and faces someone who is playing their best tennis, she hasn't been able to handle it. She also couldn't handle Angelique Kerber in last summer's Wimbledon final, and couldn't handle Naomi Osaka in last year's US Open final. 

What happens if Plan A doesn't work? If the hitting hard doesn't work, she has to reinvent what she is doing and keep the ball in play a bit longer and make the opponent move, but you have to keep in mind that you then have to move more yourself. And she wasn't in good enough match shape to do that.

So does Serena stick to Plan A when she goes for her shots and hopes that's enough, or does she play more tournaments, which would allow her to have Plans A, B and C? That is the Serena Williams question of summer 2019. 

Watch: Serena Williams' Wimbledon final press conference