Serena Williams went into the Wimbledon finals on Saturday hoping to secure her 24th Grand Slam singles title — an accomplishment that would have equaled the record set by Margaret Court in the 1970s.
But after losses in two sets — 6-2, 6-2 — she fell to 27 year old Simona Halep, who with the victory became the first Romanian player to win a singles title at Wimbledon.
The win marked Halep's second major singles title — she previously won the the French Open in 2018.
From the beginning, Halep dominated the match against Williams, controlling the court with her speed, coverage and aggressive ground strokes. When Williams failed to return the final rally that clinched the match, Halep sank to her knees and raised her racket high above her head, closing her eyes and grinning in triumph.
After the match ended, Halep was asked if she'd ever played better.
"Never," she said. "It was the best match."
But Halep had kind words for Williams as well.
"Serena has inspired us, so thank you for that," she said.
Saturday's match was Williams' 11th Wimbledon singles final. She's won the tournament seven times already, most recently in 2016 against Angelique Kerber.
The match was also the third Grand Slam loss in a row for Williams, who hasn't won a Grand Slam title since the Australian Open in 2017, which she played while pregnant. She lost to Kerber in last year's Wimbledon final and to Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open in September.
At 37, Williams is the oldest Grand Slam women's singles finalist to compete since the start of the Open Era in 1968. But she has struggled to attain her 24th Grand Slam singles title since the birth of her daughter, Olympia, in 2017.
Her daughter's birth "would have been a perfect moment to walk away, but I wanted more," she said in an interview last year.
After the match, Williams said playing against Halep made her feel like a "deer in the headlights."
"When a player plays like that, you just have to take your hat off," she said.
But Williams said this is far from her last tournament. "I've just got to keep fighting, keep trying," she said. "I love playing the sport."