'I'm very sure that was the best match of my life' - Simona Halep hails Wimbledon final win over Serena Williams
The newest member of the All England Club was undoubtedly its happiest after Simona Halep played the match of her life to defeat Serena Williams and win her first Wimbledon title.
Williams had gone into the match as the favourite as she once again sought the elusive 24th grand slam singles title that would see her equal Margaret Court's all-time record.
It appeared that history weighed heavily but, even at her best, Williams would have had her work cut out to match Halep, who played a near flawless match to win 6-2 6-2 in just 56 minutes.
"I knew that I have to be aggressive, being 100 per cent for every ball, that I don't have to let her come back to the match because she's so powerful and so strong," said the 27-year-old, who won her first slam title at the French Open last summer.
"She knows how to manage every moment. So I knew that I have to stay there, which I did pretty well today. I'm very sure that was the best match of my life."
Halep, the first Romanian to win a Wimbledon singles title, walked into her post-match press conference with her member's badge pinned proudly to her top.
"I wanted this badly," she said. "When I started the tournament, I talked to the people from the locker room that my dream is to become a member here. So today it's real and I'm really happy.
"I met (chairman) Philip (Brook). He told me, 'Any time you want, you can come, have dinner, have lunch, playing a little bit of tennis'. I will come for sure."
By reaching the final, Halep had fulfilled the dream of her mother Tania, who was watching along with other family members from the stands.
"It was my mum's dream when I was about 10, 12," said Halep. "She said if I want to do something in tennis I have to play the final of Wimbledon. So the day came."
Lifting the Venus Rosewater dish was beyond the dream, and something Halep admitted she did not think she would be able to achieve until this year, when she suddenly found her feet on grass.
The occasion proved too much for Tania when she was reunited with her daughter afterwards.
"She didn't say anything because she was crying," said Halep. "I just hugged her and I kissed her. I just told her that we'll talk later."
Halep, who also took inspiration from the presence of the Duchess of Cambridge in the Royal Box, had only won one of her previous 10 matches against Williams.
One of the keys, she revealed, was not thinking about the woman across the other side of the net.
"I didn't think at all against who I play," she said. "I've always been intimidated a little bit when I faced Serena. She's an inspiration for everyone and the model for everyone.
"Today I decided before the match that I'm going to focus on myself and on the final of a grand slam, not on her. That's why I was able to play my best, to be relaxed, and to be able to be positive and confident against her."
The statistics were remarkable. Halep was more dominant on serve than Williams, who is regarded as the best server in the history of women's tennis, and made only three unforced errors compared to 25 for her opponent.
She led 4-0 after only 11 minutes and, although Williams raised her level, Halep was equal to it, defending superbly but turning defence into attack in devastating fashion.
Williams was full of praise for Halep, saying: "She played out of her mind. It was a little bit 'deer in the headlights' for me. Whenever someone plays like that you just have to take your hat off and nod your head."
Halep was superb but this also was not a good performance from Williams, who had looked to be hitting peak form but could not get her feet moving or find clarity of thought.
"I just was trying different things," she said. "Today nothing really helped. But I also made way too many errors for a lot of stuff to work."
Williams has now played three slam finals since returning to the sport last spring following the birth of her daughter and has lost each one in straight sets - to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon last year, dramatically to Naomi Osaka at the US Open and now to Halep here.
She insisted she was not tense or thinking too much about number 24 but it did not appear that way.
"I just have to figure out a way to win a final," said Williams, who was supported by her close friend the Duchess of Sussex.
"Maybe playing other finals outside of grand slams would be really helpful just to kind of get in the groove so by the time I get to a grand slam final I'm kind of used to what to do and how to play.
"I feel like I'm still incredibly competitive or else I wouldn't really be out here. For the most part, I feel like I'm on the right track."