Revitalized Venus rolls back years
LONDON — When she looks back on her career, Johanna Konta hopes that this year’s Wimbledon tournament won’t be the highlight.
Konta, who was trying to become the first British woman to win the grass-court Grand Slam since Virginia Wade in 1977, lost to five-time champion Venus Williams 6-4, 6-2 on Thursday.
“Well, in years to come, hopefully I’ve gone further, as well,” the 26-year-old Konta said after the loss. “How about we talk about that in years to come?”
Konta’s run to the semifinals, which saw her come through a tough second-round match against Donna Vekic before beating second-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, will elevate her into the top five of the world rankings for the first time on Monday.
The Australia-born Konta has been in the semifinals of a major tournament before — at last year’s Australian Open. She followed that by reaching the fourth round at the US Open and then made the quarterfinals in Melbourne at the start of 2017.
Her record at the All England Club — with only one win in five appearances before this year — has now improved dramatically. What’s more, the British public is embracing her like it did when Andy Murray first started to go deep into the Wimbledon tournament about a decade ago.
“Konta-mania. I didn’t hear that before,” she said when told about fans wearing T-shirts bearing her name. “Well, I guess it’s just incredibly humbling.
“It’s something that is greater than me and obviously just my focus on my match and my performance, and trying to improve. It does bring it slightly out of context and, I guess, makes me realize how special that is and how much people do enjoy being a part of my journey.”
On Centre Court against Williams, though, Konta faced a player that was simply too good. The 37-year-old American broke in the final game of the first set and took her third break in the final game of the match.
“In terms of how comfortable I felt out there and how focused I was on what I wanted to try and achieve out there, I felt really comfortable,” Konta said. “I felt good in that. In terms of that, I’m definitely happy with how I dealt with today.”
However, Williams’ vast bigmatch experience told in the end. She reached her ninth final at the All England Club, and will face 2015 runner-up Garbine Muguruza, of Spain, on Saturday for a shot at a sixth title.
Williams reckons Konta, though, will get more chances.
“She played an amazing tournament. She showed a lot of courage, played in tough situations against players who were in form,” Williams said. “I feel like she wants these majors, she’ ll have an opportunity.”
LONDON — All these years later, Wimbledon still brings out the best in Venus Williams.
With her latest display of gutsy serving and big hitting, Williams beat Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2 on Thursday to reach her ninth final at the All England Club and first since 2009.
At 37, Williams is the oldest Wimbledon finalist since Martina Navratilova was the 1994 runner-up at that age.
Williams also stopped Konta’s bid to become the first British woman in 40 years to win the tournament.
“I couldn’t have asked for more, but I’ ll ask for a little more. One more win would be amazing,” Williams said. “It won’t be a given, but I’m going to give it my all.”
She will be seeking her sixth Wimbledon championship and eighth Grand Slam singles trophy overall. Her most recent came in 2008, when she defeated her younger sister, Serena, for the title in southwest London. A year later, she lost the final to Serena.
In the time since, Williams revealed that she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, which can sap energy and cause joint pain.
There were questions about whether she might retire, especially after a halfdozen first-round losses at major tournaments. But she kept on going, and lately has returned to winning.
Her resurgence began in earnest at Wimbledon a year ago, when she made it to the semifinals. Then, at the Australian Open in January, Williams reached the final, where she lost to her sister. Serena is off the tour for the remainder of this year because she is pregnant.
“I missed her so much before this match. And I was like, ‘I just wish she was here.’ And I was like, ‘I wish she could do this for me,’” Venus said with a laugh. “And I was like, ‘No, this time you have to do it for yourself.’ So here we are.”
On Saturday, the 10thseeded American will participate in her second Grand Slam final of the season, and 16th of her career, this time against 14 th-seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, the 2015 Wimbledon runner-up and 2016 French Open champion.
“She knows how to play, especially Wimbledon finals,” Muguruza said about Williams. “It’s going to be, like, a historic final again.”
Muguruza overwhelmed 87 th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 in the first semifinal on Thursday.
Williams arrived in England a few weeks after being involved in a two-car accident in Florida; not long afterward, a passenger in the other vehicle died. At her initial news conference at Wimbledon, a tearful Williams briefly left the room to compose herself after being asked about the crash.
She has tried, coach David Witt said, to “just focus on the tennis”.
In Thursday’s second semifinal, Konta had the first chance to nose ahead — a point from serving from the opening set when it was 4-4 and Williams was serving and down 15-40.
Williams erased the first break point with a backhand winner down the line, and the second with a 106 mph (171 kph) second serve that went right at Konta’s body.
It was a risky strategy, going for so much pace on a second serve, but it worked. That opened a run in which Williams won 12 of 13 points.
“She looks to dictate from the very first ball,” Konta said. “When she puts herself in a position to do that, she plays with a lot of depth, a lot of speed, and you don’t get much of a chance to get your, I guess, grip into the points.”
Williams wouldn’t face another break point and, in the second set, produced another impressive second serve — at 103 mph (166 kph), it went right at Konta, who jumped out of the way.
Konta played well, especially early on, and finished with more winners, 20 to 19, each greeted by roars from the Centre Court crowd.
“They could have really been even more boisterous. I thought the crowd was so fair. And I know that they love Jo, and she gave it her all today,” Williams said.
“It’s a lot of pressure. I thought she handled it well. I think my experience just helped a lot.”
This was her 10th semifinal in 20 Wimbledon appearances; Konta had never been past the second round at the grass-court tournament before this year.