By Ros Satar – In Indian Wells
- Serena Williams  def Simona Halep  6-4 6-3
INDIAN WELLS, USA – With neither player dropping a set on the way to the quarter-finals, it was Serena Williams who came out on top, defeating defending champion Simona Halep in straight sets.
This was last year’s semi-final that never was. An eagerly awaited clash between the plucky Romanian scrambler, who had taken the battle to Williams at the previous year’s year-end championships in Singapore, but losing out to her in the final.
This time we were getting it in the quarter-final stages on a blockbuster day of quarter-final action. Halep had been playing some outstanding tennis this week, looking as fired up as we had ever seen her, after some indifferent results since her breakout years in 2013 and 2014.
On the other side of the net was Williams, who had largely been expected to continue her rampage through the Grand Slams, only to be thwarted once more at the final hurdle, losing the Australian Open final to Angelique Kerber.
By contract Halep’s year had sputtered to faltering halt with the news that she would take time out for an operation for a deviated septum, only for that to be delayed and suddenly the old Halep seemed to be back.
She started the brighter, breaking Williams early but was frustrated as she could not hold on to the advantage. Halep made some use of some key advice from her coach Darren Cahill to exploit what little vulnerability exists in Williams’ games, the American gradually dominated.
Despite the score, the margins felt quite tight, and by the time Cahill came out for the second coaching time-out it was all they could do to just laugh at the situation. Perhaps this best run for Halep was taking its toll as she complained that she felt a bit tight, and either way it was just the briefest stop of runs before Williams closed out a straight sets win.
Williams is looking all the more imposing as she closes in on this title, as she explained in her post match press conference:
“It feels really good to get that win. She obviously has been in good form the past couple years. So, yeah, I feel really good just to get under there and buckle down and to win that.
“[Radwanska] knows how to play in big stadiums and big matches, big games. Obviously she does everything so well, including running, and this is a good surface for her because it’s a slow surface. I think I expect there will be a lot of long rallies. Honestly, I will be ready. I really like Aga on and off the court. I think she’s super exciting to watch on the court, and off the court I think she’s really one of the nicest people.”
Despite losing her chance to defend her title, Halep was in good spirits as she came in to face the press.
She said, about the match: “My reaction is that she played really well today. I have to get better to be closer to her. it’s the best tournament this year so far, so it’s okay. I had good matches. I feel good. I found my game. I can say I’m healthy, so that’s the most important. I just want to keep working to get better.”
Having gone through a fair bunch of coaches, it was good to see her have a strong raport with Aussie Cahill, even sharing an in-joke and a laugh at 2-5 down in the second set. So how was she getting on with understanding that Aussie accent of his?
“It’s good. I started to understand him first after I stayed about four weeks away from him. When I came — when I went to Vegas he started to speak and I couldn’t understand anything. I said, Darren, you speak for me. Forget Australian. So he’s speaking slower now and I can understand. (Smiling.)”
Halep will now head to Miami to start preparing for the tournament, which starts on 21 March.
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