Serena Williams vs Simona Halep: Coaches look ahead to Tuesday’s Australian Open quarter-final
Serena Williams continues her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title when she takes on two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday morning.
Tenth seed Williams has impressed in Melbourne, and she advanced to the last eight by overcoming fellow top-10 seed Aryna Sabalenka in a high-quality contest.
Halep came through a gruelling encounter of her own; recovering from a set down to deny French Open champion Iga Swiatek, to gain revenge for her defeat against the Polish teenager at Roland Garros.
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Halep has lost nine of her 11 meetings against Williams, but she prevailed in the pair’s last meeting – claiming a famous straight-sets win over the 39-year-old in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
Williams has succumbed in four finals since her last Grand Slam triumph at the Australian Open in 2017, but her latest clash against the Romanian offers the opportunity of redemption.
However, although Williams retains the desire to add to her Grand Slam tally, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou believes she doesn’t require Margaret Court’s all-time record for ‘validation’.
‘Serena not as obsessed with the 24 as others’
“Does she need that validation? I don’t think she needs that validation. But clearly, she came back to tennis to win some other Grand Slams, so that’s for sure the goal,” Mouratoglou told reporters.
“She’s not as obsessed with the 24 than most of the people in the tennis world, but definitely she wants to win Grand Slams. That’s the only reason why she came back to tennis.
“The only way is not to think about the opportunities because when you think about the opportunities, you bring expectations, and we all know that expectations are not the best friend of the professional athletes.”
Serena’s footwork has been a feature of her impressive displays over the past fortnight, and Mouratoglou claims the 39-year-old agility is better than in the last three years.
“Is she moving better than last year? Yes, for sure. Is she moving better than the last three years? Yes, for sure. No doubt about it. It’s something that we have put the emphasis on because in tennis that’s probably one of the most important things,” he added.
“There is tennis before the Open Era and tennis after the Open Era. We all know it’s two different sports. It’s an amateur sport and a professional sport. It doesn’t make sense to compare.”
Mouratoglou on Serena’s record target…
“If you are late on the ball, you can’t do what you want to do. Sometimes you don’t even touch the ball. It’s a sport where you have to be able to move fast from side to side and long enough. It’s something that probably in the last two, three years, had consequences for Serena.
“When you’re not in a good day, you need a Plan B. To be able to have a Plan B, you have to be able to move well. If you can’t move well, there is no Plan B. The only plan is attack.
“I think it cost her a few important matches, so we have decided to find a way to bring back the footwork that she used to have in the past. I feel like she’s done a great job. She’s moving much better.”
This is a view supported by Halep’s coach Darren Cahill, who has heaped praise on the irrepressible American.
“She is playing as well as I’ve seen her play for a long time. She’s moving as well as I’ve seen her move and defend in the last four or five years. She’s confident. She’s Serena Williams.”
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Halep buoyed by Wimbledon memories
Although Williams dominates the pair’s head-to-head record, Cahill believes Halep will be buoyed by her Wimbledon triumph 18 months ago, as she targets a spot in a second Australian Open final
“You know, it’s all-encompassing when you play somebody like her, and it’s why it’s such a great challenge, because she got a chance a couple of years ago to play her in a Wimbledon final. That was massive for Simona to get over that hurdle,” he added.
“I think making your player remember something that was so special both about what she accomplished and the way she played is really important to try to replicate that.
“She’ll go into this match with belief, but the execution is something that depends on the day. She will have belief that she can execute but she has to go out there and play as confidently as she did in the last two sets of this match.
Serena vs Simona – Tale of the Tape
“Play aggressively, have that ability to try to push Serena off the baseline as much as she can. Obviously be fortunate or lucky enough or have a good read on the greatest serve the women’s game has ever seen and try to get as many balls back as possible.”
Williams is aiming to capture an eighth Australian Open crown in 2021 – 18 years on from her first – but Mouratoglou insists they’ll be wary of the threat Halep poses.
“I think Simona played the perfect match in Wimbledon. It’s going to be a different process for her because she knows she can play like that against Serena, which she never did before. She will come probably with more confidence, and we’re prepared for that.”
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