WIMBLEDON, England — The newest champion at Wimbledon is a big fan of the All England Club’s oldest traditions.
The tennis whites, the strict rules, even the green grass. And the flowers. Don’t forget the thousands of blooming petals dotted around the grounds in the very Wimbledon shades of purple, green and white.
“I love flowers. The colors,” gasped Halep, speaking a short time after winning her second major title on Saturday by denying Serena Williams her 24th. “The people, they are very well dressed. The elegance of everywhere you go.”
Halep wasn’t exactly dressed for Sunday night’s Champions Dinner while speaking to a small group of reporters following her 6-2, 6-2 victory, but she was wearing something that was even more special to her.
Her brand new Wimbledon member’s badge.
“Looks good,” said the 27-year-old Romanian, brushing her hand over the round, purple button newly pinned to her gray sweat jacket.
“Everything makes this tournament very special,” Halep added. “I never thought I’d be able to win on grass so when I did it, makes it huge.”
Halep grew up playing mainly on clay, a slower surface that usually results in longer rallies on each point. She never used to feel comfortable on grass, she said, partly because she hardly ever got to play on it.
But things have changed in recent years, and the former No. 1 on the women’s tour made a conscious effort to improve her grass-court game. She made the semifinals at Wimbledon back in 2014, but lost in the first round a year later.
To succeed now, she knew she had to change her mindset. To be more aggressive.
“I like to be defensive, but here you have no chance if you are defensive,” said Halep, who also won last year’s French Open title. “And then the serve, which was very important the whole tournament.”
Another important aspect in Saturday’s final was handling her nerves against a player who had won the Wimbledon title on seven previous occasions and was looking to equal the all-time record of 24 majors overall.
Halep managed to do that, too, but said there was still more to be done, more issues to overcome.
“I had to play perfect to be able to win against her,” said Halep, who did just that, playing about as perfect as one can on that giant stage, with the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex looking on from the Royal Box.
Williams has a big serve and hits the ball hard from anywhere on court. Halep got to almost all of them, and returned them cleanly, too.
She finished with only three unforced errors in the entire match, the fewest in a final since records started being kept at Wimbledon in 1998. Williams, on the other hand, committed 26 unforced errors – double digits in each set.
Watching it all unfold from the players’ box was Halep’s mother, who had years ago goaded her daughter into wanting to get to the Wimbledon final. But for Mrs. Halep, it wasn’t really about the game itself.
“She has no idea about tennis,” Halep said, hazarding a guess as to what made her mother mention Wimbledon to her all those years ago. “Maybe the fact that you’re playing in front of the Royal Box, royal family, made her feel special. That’s why she told me back then that it’s going to be awesome and the most beautiful thing to play a final. She didn’t say to win it.
“Now I made it more special.”