Did Serena Williams just copy Ash Barty’s Disney reference game at Wimbledon?

Australia World

Updated July 12, 2019 13:25:23

Hours before her Wimbledon semi-final, Serena Williams spent some time deep in thought and arrived at a couple of conclusions.

Key points:

  • Serena Williams has won 23 grand slam singles titles in her career
  • Simona Halep made her first Wimbledon final with a straight-sets victory
  • Williams has beaten Simona Halep in nine of their previous 10 matches

For one thing, she shouldn’t focus too much on trying to raise her grand slam title total to 24, a number achieved by just one other player in tennis history. And for another, she needs to stay calm on the court.

With that in mind, Williams went out on Thursday and made it all look so easy, overwhelming Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2 in 59 minutes to once again put herself on the verge of an eighth championship at the All England Club and major number 24 overall.

“It’s really not about 24 or 23 or 25. It’s really just about going out there and giving my best effort, no matter what. No matter what I do, I will always have a great career,” said Williams, who at 37 is the oldest woman to reach a grand slam final in the professional era.

“Like, I just kind of let it go this morning.”

Williams’s “let it go” comment had some fans speculating if the champion was emulating the Disney-themed press conference strategy of Australia’s Ash Barty.

Let It Go is one of the best-known songs from the Disney film Frozen.

Fans noticed Barty was sneaking references from Disney movies into her interviews, quoting lines such as “the seaweed is always greener in someone else’s lake” from The Little Mermaid and “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King.

After her Wimbledon loss, Barty drew on inspiration from the musical Annie to sum up her attitude, telling reporters “the Sun’s still going to come up tomorrow”.

On Saturday, she will take on number seven-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over number eight-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine under a cloudy sky on Centre Court.

It’s the 11th final at the All England Club for Williams, the first for Halep, whose only major trophy came at the French Open last year.

They’ve played each other 10 previous times, with Williams winning nine, including a three-setter at the Australian Open in January.

“I respect a lot what she has done and what she’s doing,” said Halep, who, like Williams, used to be ranked number one.

“But now I feel stronger, mentally, facing her. We will see what is going to happen. It’s just a big challenge for me.”

For anyone, really, when Williams is at her best.

And after an up-and-down first half of the year, due in part to injury and illness, she sure does appear to have lifted her level considerably.

Williams was limited to 12 matches in 2019 until last week. After a third-round loss at Roland Garros on June 1, she stayed in France for medical treatment and finally felt pain-free while preparing for Wimbledon.

“Well, if she will play like this in the final,” said Strycova, 33, the oldest first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist in the modern era, “it’s going to be very hard for Simona.”

After a three-set struggle against Alison Riske in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Williams was dominant against Strycova, who was limited by a leg muscle problem that cropped up in the very first game.

Strycova would repeatedly flex or shake her legs between points or try to stretch in her sideline chair by pulling her right foot onto her left knee and rocking her leg.

Not an ideal situation. Especially when facing Williams if she’s this dialled-in.

Williams played cleanly, accumulating nearly twice as many winners as unforced errors, 28-10. She was at her usual court-covering best, which helped limit Strycova to just 10 winners.

“I just need to … relax and do what I can do,” Williams said, referring again to her deep thoughts from the morning.

“I was calm today,” she said.

“It’s a day-to-day basis with me. We all know that. I’m far from perfect.”

Williams has been this close to adding to her title total before: In 2018, her first season back on tour after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, Williams reached the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open but lost each time.

That has left her Grand Slam total at 23, a record for the professional era that she established when she won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant — but one fewer than Margaret Court.

At the All England Club, she was beaten by Angelique Kerber. At Flushing Meadows, she was outplayed by Naomi Osaka in a match that descended into chaos after Williams was docked a game for a heated argument with the chair umpire.

She said in a first-person essay she wrote for Harper’s Bazaar that she met with a therapist and wrote to Osaka to apologize for the whole episode.

A rare show of emotion from Williams on Thursday could have been the semi-final’s turning point.

Ahead 2-1 in the first set while Strycova served at 30-all, Williams sailed a backhand return way long and let out a long, anguished cry.

Maybe that got her going. Williams seized seven points in a row and 16 of 20 to close out that set.

Halep seemed headed for a long day when her semi-final against Svitolina began with a pair of games encompassing 32 points across 20 minutes. Five of the first 11 points lasted at least 10 strokes; two went 23.

Soon enough, though, Halep was in control.

Now comes a tougher task: beating Williams.

AP

Topics: tennis, sport, united-kingdom, england

First posted July 12, 2019 08:16:39

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