We hope you enjoyed this week with Women’s Tennis Blog and the Western & Southern Open. Our photographer Omar Boraby extensively covered five days of the event, while Karen Helf kept delivering detailed reports from her days at the tournament (Inside Cincy – Day 1, Day 2 – Second Round Highlights, Day 3 – Quarterfinals are Set, Day 4 – The Shaping of the Women’s Semifinals, Day 5 – It’s Serena vs. Halep in the Final. Now enjoy Karen’s impressions from the women’s final and tell us how you liked our Cincinnati coverage.
Sunday afternoon shade arrived just in time for the start of the Western & Southern women’s singles final. It featured a tight match-up of two aggressive fighters, world number one and defending champion Serena Williams and world number 3 Simona Halep. Although Simona had more consistent results this week, Serena was well aware of her opportunities and focused on raising the level of her game. Play began with the stands half-full, due a much needed fan break following the men’s final.
Set 1- Focus, Aggression & Power
With Serena on serve Simona came out aggressive quickly going up 0-40. Serena took the next point, but Halep forced the break to 0-1. Serena responded with power to Simona’s next service game. Halep netted and Serena found a deep corner going up 0-30. When a Serena backhand appeared to drop off her racquet, Simona was back to 30-30. The remaining points would go to Simona, who hit 109MPH serve going up 0-2. Her strategy was working.
Back on serve Serena started with a shaky 83MPH second serve. Simona came to net, winning the point. Serena then stepped up hitting a successful 109MPH serve down the tee to 15-15. She followed up with back-to-back aces, one at 111MPH going up 40-15. Halep would not give in. She challenged Serena coming to net and trading blows to win the next two points. Serena backed up Simona’s challenge with a 99MPH ace and hitting the final serve at a velocity of 118MPH to hold, 1-2.
During the changeover fans waiting in the wings raced to find their seats, knowing they were missing a fantastic battle. Halep back on serve dropped two points, but also produced two aces to hold 1-3. Serena began her next service game with an ace. What followed was a mixed bag of second serves hitting one at 81MPH and sending Simona’s reply long. Simona continued aggressive play getting back to 40-30. However, Serena closed with 105MPH serve that Simona sent long.
Serena pressed Simona for the next break to tie 3-3. This game featured deep corner exchanges. Simona came in to net and Serena hit a lob deep taking the point 15-40. A final rally ended with Simona blasting a ball into the net.
On serve, Serena applied pressure hitting three aces, executing a skillful efficient hold to 4-3. Her upper range was now reaching 119-123MPH. The crowd acknowledged that achievement. Simona began her next service game with a deep bending reply missing the lines. Serena attacked a 78MPH second serve going up 0-30. With Serena applying pressure, Halep hit her next shot wide. Serena responded with a confident first pump now up 0-40. Simona kept battling, finding the corner after an 81MPH second serve to 15-40. Serena stayed on point finding the line for the break, 5-3.
Serena served out the set dropping only one point. She executed a powerful overhead smash to 40-15. Halep hit the next shot long and Serena celebrated closing the set 6-3. First set points won were 30 (7 aces) for Serena compared to 20 points won by Simona. Set note there were no double-faults from either player in the first set.
Set 2 -A Test of Will
In the second set, Simona continued with determination as Serena shifted into a higher gear. She held with serves ranging 79-105MPH and pressured Serena who was hitting long. Serena’s next service game fluctuated with 4 aces, 2 doubles and was peppered with second serves. When the camera closed in, Serena’s expression read frustration. She still held to 1-1. As if to redeem herself, she broke Simona winning all points in the next game to 2-1.
Halep returned the favor next pouncing on Serena’s second serves and regaining ground to break, 2-2. Both players held their ground on serve for the next eight games to 6-6.
There was a sixteen-point hold for Halep. In this game, a net ball landed in her favor. Serena was hitting the corners and blasted an overhead winner at the net. With Ad point for Halep, Serena ran her down and she finished bending over back to deuce. But Simona dug deep and pressed earning the hold. The final game point was a net shot from Serena.
Now at 3-4 the crowd was chanting Simona and flying Romanian flags. The other games finished quickly. Serena was more consistent finding serves in the 110-120MPH range.
High Caliber Tiebreak
At the start of the tiebreak, Simona was minutes from breathing life back into her match while, Serena kept her eye on the prize. Throughout the tiebreak you could hear the physical effort of both players. Simona earned the first point with a 93MPH serve. Serena applied pressure responding with 110MPH serve that Halep hit long, 1-1.
The next point ended with Serena out stretched missing the shot and letting off steam. Halep was up 1-2. The next two points were uncharacteristic for both players. Halep appeared to stop play on a good ball and Serena hit a poor drop shot. Simona seized that opportunity and hit a great passing shot. The score was now at 2-3 Halep. Serena took the next two points despite a scramble from Halep making an impressive running shot. The score now 4-3, Williams. The last two points were long grinders requiring tremendous effort. The first ended with Halep driving from the baseline into the net to 6-4. On the second point Halep changed up shots after a baseline battle. Unfortunately, her drop shot landed short giving Serena match point. Final score: Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-6.
While the title is Serena’s 5th of 2015 and her 69th career win, she also won against herself today. Once again she found success while not at peak performance. This is the perhaps the hardest test of all for any athlete and the mark of a true champion.