When asked who she would most like to see cheering her on in the Wimbledon final, Simona Halep did not miss a beat.
“Kate, I like her,” she said with a smile.
The Romanian could not hide her delight as her wish came true yesterday, when the Duchess of Cambridge proved to be her lucky charm, watching from the Royal Box as she crushed Serena Williams in less than an hour to be crowned Wimbledon champion for the first time.
“It was an extra boost to see them there, the Royal family,” she beamed afterwards.
There was little doubt that Halep was the underdog. She had previously played Williams, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, ten times and lost nine.
But the 27-year-old walked out onto Centre Court powered by self-belief. Relaxed and confident, she triumphed before an incredulous crowd in two quick sets.
Interviewed, as is tradition, by Sue Barker in the immediate aftermath, Halep looked stunned by her own success.
"It was my best match," she said. “And it was an honour to play in front of the Royal Box. I came on court and did my best.”
Told she would now have the opportunity to meet the Duchess, who watched alongside her sister-in-law the Duchess of Sussex, Halep replied: “That’s amazing. I didn’t know that.”
She was later pictured dropping down into a deep curtsey as she met the Duchess, patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
“It was an honour to play in front of her,” she said. “She is very kind and very nice.”
Asked to describe how victory felt, Halep revealed that her legs had nearly given way.
“You feel light, everything is beautiful,” she said. “And you just try to enjoy it.”
She admitted that Williams was an intimidating opponent but added: “Today I decided to focus on the match and not on her. I just went for it.
“Winning was unforgettable. We don’t even have grass courts in Romania.”
Halep, who was never hothoused or sent to a prestigous academy at a young age like so many of her peers, said the victory had been her mother’s dream when she was just ten.
“She said if I want to do something special in tennis I will have to play in the final of Wimbledon,” she said.
Asked what her mother had said to her after the match, she laughed: “She did not say anything because she was crying.”
She revealed that one of her biggest motivations was the promise of a lifetime’s membership to the All England Club and she said she could not wait to enjoy the facilities without the pressure of a match the next day, proudly pointing to her member's badge with pride.
For 37-year-old Williams, it was a third major final defeat in 12 months.
"She played out of her mind,” she said, admitting that she had been caught “like a deer in the headlights.”
Asked how it felt to have her good friend, the Duchess of Sussex, supporting her, she said: “Just having her in general as a friend is great.
“She’s such a great friend and a great person as well. Always positive, no matter what. It’s so good to have people like that just to know. She’s such a fan of the sport. She too, was happy for Simona. She saw she played unbelievable. That’s just the kind of person she is.”
Dressed in a crisp white shirt and floral Hugo Boss skirt, the Duchess sat in the Royal Box flanked by her sister-in-law on one side and Pippa Matthews on the other.
The two Duchesses chatted warmly with each other throughout the match, putting on a united front after months of rumoured tensions between their households.
Among those who joined them in the prestigious box were Theresa May and her husband Philip as well as actors Woody Harrelson, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Rylance, Aidan Turner and Lily James.
Novak Djokovic, who will take on Roger Federer in the men’s final today (SUN) was spotted watching the match on his mobile phone on the Wimbledon practice courts.