Venus on verge of mak­ing his­tory

37-year-old can be­come old­est woman to win a Grand Slam ti­tle

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - CHUCK CULPEPPER

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.

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