12 Jul 2019

Serena Williams closes in on record Wimbledon crown

5:32 am on 12 July 2019

Serena Williams is a win away from securing a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles crown after obliterating Barbora Strycova to reach her 11th Wimbledon final.

Wimbledon 2019  - Serena Williams

Serena Williams. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The seven-times champion will play fellow former world No.1 Simona Halep for the title on Saturday after casting aside unseeded Strycova 6-1 6-2 in a 59-minute semi-final mismatch.

Already the oldest grand slam champion in the open era, Williams is now also the oldest woman to make a major final.

Turning 38 in September, Williams is 33 days older than nine-times All England Club champion Martina Navratilova was when Czech-born American qualified for her 12th decider in 1994.

"It definitely feels good to be back in the final, especially after my year," said Williams, who only played 12 matches this injury-ravaged season before arriving in London.

"I just needed some matches and every match I know I keep improving.

"Now I'm feeling good, I can do what I do best, and that's play tennis."

Despite her advancing years, Williams is showing no signs of slowing down in her obsessive pursuit of Margaret Court's 24 slams, a magical mark that has stood for 46 years.

"I wake up every morning and I get to be fit, play in front of crowds. Not everyone can do that.

"I love what I do, it's just a remarkable experience."

Williams broke Strycova twice in the opening set, which she clinched with her third ace, before rattling through the second in similarly dominant fashion to advance to her 32nd grand slam final in all - and third since the birth of her daughter Olympia in September, 2017.

As well as all the records she's hunting, Williams has the chance to follow Australian legends Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley as only the third mother in half-a-century of professional tennis to win Wimbledon.

The American was pregnant when she won the most recent of her 23 slams at the 2017 Australian Open before losing last year's Wimbledon and US Open finals to Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka respectively.

Seventh-seeded Halep advanced to her maiden Wimbledon final with an equally impressive 6-1 6-3 win over world No.8 Elina Svitolina in Thursday's first semi- final.

The 27-year-old will be chasing her second grand slam title, having won last year's French Open following finals losses in Paris in 2014 and 2017 as well as a runner-up finish at the 2018 Australian Open.

Halep hadn't faced a seed on her way to the last four and had lost four of her previous seven meetings with Svitolina, the first Ukrainian to make a women's grand slam semi-final.

But after needing 43 minutes to win the most competitive seven-game opening set of the tournament, Halep retained her cool to seal victory with two more service breaks in the second set.

"It's an amazing feeling. I'm really excite and also nervous to be in the final. It's one of the best moments of my life," Halep said.

"I'm playing to enjoy it as much as possible and also to play through to the final."

A loser of her first three grand slam finals, Halep had carried a reputation as temperamental and not strong enough in the mind to win tennis's biggest prizes.

But she's now playing with a new-found freedom after finally breaking through last year.

"I'm not giving up," said Halep, who trails Williams 9-1 head to head.

"I'm trying to be my best version of myself and I fight to win until the very last point because I want to win every match."