Venus on verge of making history
37-year-old can become oldest woman to win a Grand Slam title
Defying long-held sports logic about the aging process that allegedly besets all athletes, Venus Williams went barrelling into a Wimbledon final at age 37 on Thursday, while subjecting a Centre Court audience of 15,000 to majority disappointment.
She beat Johanna Konta, the 26-year-old, Australian-born, naturalized Briton ranked No. 6 in the world, by 6-4, 6-2, and by demonstrating both elegant groundstrokes and superior moxie and seasoning during the little turns that turned the match. With that, Williams found another fresh crest of her protracted career, as well as her ninth Wimbledon final, her first in eight years and, remarkably, second Grand Slam final of this season.
Saturday, Williams will attempt to become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam tournament since professionals were first allowed to play them in 1968, breaking the mark set by her younger sister Serena at the Australian Open in January.
In the three of her first eight Wimbledon finals which Williams did not win, the conqueror was always Serena Williams, whose victory over Venus Williams at the Australian Open brought a 23rd Grand Slam title. But with Serena absent during her pregnancy, this time Venus, ranked No. 11, will see the player often deemed the most formidable during this particular tournament, Garbine Muguruza, ranked No. 15.
The Spanish-Venezuelan star, who eliminated No. 1 Angelique Kerber along the way, tore through Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, 6-1,
6-1, in Thursday’s opening semifinal, in 64 minutes.
Konta, the first British female semifinalist since Virginia Wade in 1978, did not quite find the level that pushed her through a sequence of lengthy matches here, including a three-set quarter-final squeak past No. 2-ranked Simona Halep. More often, she couldn’t avoid letting Williams dictate pressure. When she lost her serve at 1-2 in the second set on a forehand driven low into the net, the crowd let out another in its series of groans.
That crowd also showed ample appreciation for Williams, a mainstay here since 1997, and it seemed to comprehend that Konta would not ever break Williams’s serve, which she did not.
She almost did, at a crucial stage at 4-4 in the first set when Williams had to dig out of a 15-40 inconvenience. She did it with a sparkling spray of points, including a backhand drilled in the corner behind Konta, a service winner that bottled up the Briton, and a tremendous point on which Williams slammed balls to and fro from the baseline until she rocketed a pulled forehand winner up the line.
Having weathered that, she followed with a break for the 6-4 first set, as the decided aggressor in a game she won at 15. The two had a fierce, seven-shot exchange on the final point of that, until Konta’s last gasp went into the corner, where it almost hit both lines there but landed just beyond the baseline.
From there, Konta saw only uphill.
Venus Williams celebrates her semifinal win over Johanna Konta at Wimbledon on Thursday.