SINGAPORE -- It will be a contrast in styles, years and personality when No. 1 Serena Williams takes on No. 4 Simona Halep in the championship match at the WTA Finals on Sunday.
It's an opportunity for revenge for Serena, who lost to Halep just five days ago in group play. That 6-0, 6-2 defeat was the 18-time Slam champion's worst loss in 16 years and Serena admitted she needed a major pep talk from coach Patrick Mouratoglou to just get on court for the rest of her matches. In an odd twist, she qualified for the semifinals thanks to Halep. The 23-year-old Romanian had already booked her spot in the semifinals when she took the court for her final round robin match and could have opted to conserve her energy and just lose to Ana Ivanovic in straight sets to knock out Serena. She didn't. She played hard and won a set to put Serena through. The idea of giving anything less than 100 percent in that match in order to potentially maximize her chances in the tournament never crossed her mind.
"Every time when I go on court I just want to do everything I can to win the match," Halep said. "I play with pleasure. I love tennis. That's why. I don't care about results, but when the results are coming so I'm really happy." Her results do not yet include a title match at the WTA Finals, where she is making her debut. She expects a tough match against Serena and knows it won't be as easy as it was on Wednesday.
"She's very strong," Halep said. "It's good that I played against her this week. I have more experience now. I know how she's playing, how she's hitting."
Serena is going for her third straight WTA Finals trophy on Sunday. She has already clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking. She had a slow start against Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals but eventually rebounded, coming back from 1-4 down in the third set tiebreak to win. She's battle-tested and ready for revenge.
"I'm excited," Serena said. "My goal is to win three games. That'll be my first goal. I'm going to go from there. Hopefully I can hold serve. That would be good. Most of all, I hope to break once. So I'm starting out with low goals." Serena may have been facetious with her expectations but it's hard to imagine a situation in which she plays as badly as she did against Halep the first time. She leads the overall head-to-head 3-1. No player has ever beaten her twice in one week. Halep acknowledged she played the match of her life to beat Serena the first time. Whether she can replicate that level is the question.
"I have to be aggressive," Halep said. "I have no chance if I stay behind the baseline."
Sunday's final begins at 7 p.m. local time and 7 a.m. ET.
No. 1 Serena Williams
Tournaments played: 15
Miles traveled: 31,516
- 2014 U.S. Open Champion, winning her 18th major and tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the most Slams in the Open Era.
- Tour-leading six titles at the U.S. Open, Miami, Rome, Cincinnati, Stanford and Brisbane.
- Began the season at No. 1 and finishes the season at No. 1, holding the top ranking for every week of the year.
- Posted a 51-8 record.
No. 4 Simona Halep
Tournaments played: 18
Miles traveled: 38,440
- Coming into the the tournament ranked No. 4, she will finish the season at No. 3. Began the season ranked No. 11 and reached a career-high of No. 2.
- First Grand Slam final at the French Open, losing to Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4.
- First Wimbledon semifinal.
- Reached the quarterfinals at three of the four Slams.
- Two titles in Doha and Bucharest.
- Posted a 46-15 record.
This post has been updated.