SIM­PLY AMAZ­ING

ROGER OWNS WIM­BLE­DON,

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SAM FARMER

LON­DON — The come­back took years. The farewell took min­utes.

Af­ter a hard-fought open­ing set Satur­day, a list­less Venus Wil­liams saw her bid for Wim­ble­don ten­nis his­tory end with a whim­per.

She lost to Spain’s Gar­bine Mugu­ruza, 7-5, 6-0, un­der the closed roof at Cen­tre Court.

The sec­ond set lasted just 26 min­utes, and the crowd grew quiet as Wil­liams, 37, of­fered less and less re­sis­tance, and the loss looked in­creas­ingly in­evitable.

Across the net was a fresh and steady Mugu­ruza, who wore down her leg­endary op­po­nent with re­lent­less ground­strokes and pre­cious few mis­takes.

“I was just very com­posed,” said the smil­ing and charis­matic win­ner of last year’s French Open.

It was the sec­ond Wim­ble­don fi­nal for Mugu­ruza, who lost here in 2015 to Ser­ena Wil­liams, Venus’ younger sis­ter. “I let my racket do the talk­ing.” Wil­liams had a chance to be­come the oldest woman to win a Wim­ble­don ti­tle in the Open Era, which be­gan in 1968.

Ser­ena set that record by win­ning Wim­ble­don a year ago at 34 years, 287 days.

“Yeah, def­i­nitely would have loved to have con­verted some of those points, but she com­peted re­ally well,” Wil­liams said. “So credit to her. She dug in there and man­aged to play bet­ter.”

Wil­liams was gra­cious in de­feat and said all the right things but looked ex­hausted in the in­ter­view room, speak­ing softly and prop­ping her hand un­der her chin.

She didn’t look dev­as­tated — she has the per­spec­tive of rid­ing the Wim­ble­don roller-coaster for 20 years — but she ap­peared to be run­ning on fumes.

Asked whether she was feel­ing the ef­fects of age or her Sjo­gren’s syn­drome — she was di­ag­nosed six years ago with an auto-im­mune dis­ease caus­ing chronic fa­tigue and mus­cle sore­ness — she bat­ted away the ques­tion at the net.

“She played re­ally well,” Wil­liams said, an­swer­ing a ques­tion that wasn’t asked. “I mean, she played top ten­nis, so I have to give her credit for just play­ing a bet­ter match.”

A piv­otal point came late in the first set, with Wil­liams lead­ing 5-4 and Mugu­ruza serv­ing. The Spa­niard was down 40-15, one point away from los­ing the set. A long rally fol­lowed, end­ing with Wil­liams’ hit­ting a fore­hand into the net. Mugu­ruza got to deuce when Wil­liams was long on a fore­hand, then won the next two points to dig her way out of the hole. Wil­liams wouldn’t win again. “When I had those set points against me, I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s nor­mal. I’m play­ing Venus here,’” Mugu­ruza said. “So I just keep fight­ing. And I knew if I was play­ing like I was play­ing dur­ing the two weeks, I was go­ing to have even­tu­ally an op­por­tu­nity. So I was calm. If I lose the first set, I still have two more. Let’s not make a drama.”

When the re­al­ity of her win sunk in, Mugu­ruza dropped to her knees and buried her face in her hands. She emerged with damp eyes and a wide smile. “Once you step on the court, you see the crowd, you see the fi­nal, you see I’m here play­ing an­other Wim­ble­don fi­nal,” Mugu­ruza said. “So very sat­is­fy­ing the way I han­dled it.”

Like­wise, this will be re­mem­bered as a re­mark­able tour­na­ment for Wil­liams. That she was play­ing in her 20th Wim­ble­don is mind­bog­gling to many in pro­fes­sional ten­nis, a sport in which many play­ers are fin­ished by their late 20s.

In the af­ter­math of Satur­day’s loss, Wil­liams wasn’t ready to com­mit to any­thing.

A re­porter asked: “Pre­sum­ably, you’re com­ing back next year, right?”

“Pre­sum­ably, yes,” she said, slowly walk­ing out the door.

STEVEN PASTON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gar­bine Mugu­ruza jokes with her tro­phy as she leaves the court af­ter beat­ing Venus Wil­liams in the women’s sin­gles fi­nal at the Wim­ble­don ten­nis cham­pi­onship in Lon­don on Satur­day. Mugu­ruza won 7-5, 6-0.

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