Williams fights on at age 37
Victory by Venus stokes mom’s fire
LONDON — Venus Williams’ mother could not stop smiling and laughing. She had just watched her 37-year-old daughter reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the 10th time and, well, the whole thing was just a bit hard to believe.
“She says, ‘I love my job!’ and she means it. I guess she’s kind of like a boxer: People think it’s time for her to quit because she’s too old,” Oracene Price said after leaving Centre Court, where the roof was shut because of rain Tuesday. “But she keeps getting back in the ring — and she seems to be doing pretty well. This is really amazing.”
Williams continued a career renaissance by riding a serve that produced eight aces, imposing returns and her court coverage of old to a 6-3, 7-5 victory over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.
“The competition keeps you growing,” Williams said after edging closer to sixth singles title at the All England Club. “You have to get better if you want to stay relevant.”
Tuesday she played in her 100th Wimbledon match, coming in her 20th appearance.
The first of her trophies at the grass-court tournament came in 2000. And now, for the third match in a row, Williams beat a player who was born in 1997 — the year she made her Wimbledon debut.
“The first one was 20 years ago? Lord,” Price said, her eyes wide. “Well, you know, that’s a long time.”
Williams is the only woman to have made the fourth round at each of the past six majors, and now she’s into her third semifinal in that span. She made it that far at Wimbledon last year, too, before losing, and got to the final at the Australian Open in January, when she was beaten by her younger sister, Serena.
“Who knows if she’s lost a step?” said Williams’ coach, David Witt. “She looks pretty good to me.”
As good as she has appeared at anytime since 2011, when 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 half-dozen first-round losses at majors. But she kept going, and with her recent successes, a championship this week would return the American to the top five in the rankings for the first time in six years.
“I just always felt like I have to keep trying,” said Williams, who repeatedly took advantage of Ostapenko’s second serves at around 70 mph. “That’s all I felt like.”
The 10th-seeded Williams will need to win Thursday against No. 6 Johanna Konta to get to her ninth final at the All England Club.
Johanna would be the first British woman in the Wimbledon semifinals since Virginia Wade was the runner-up in 1978.
“I definitely feel that age is not a factor with her,” Konta said about Williams. “She’s just a tremendous champion, and I feel very, very humbled, and I’m very excited to share the court with her again.”
Konta prevented Simona Halep from rising to No. 1 by beating her 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4. The result means that Karolina Pliskova, who lost in the second round, will replace Angelique Kerber, who departed in the fourth round, atop the rankings next week.
On the other side of the draw, 2015 Wimbledon runner-up and 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza defeated two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza saved all three break points she faced and did a good job of defending, focused more on keeping the ball in the court than going for winners.
“If she plays like she played today,” Kuznetsova said, “she has all the chances to win the title.”
Muguruza’s semifinal opponent will be 24th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S. or Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, who is ranked 87th and had never even been past the third round in her 35 previous career majors. Vandeweghe vs. Rybarikova was suspended by showers at 2-2 in the second set, after Rybarikova took the opener 6-3, and was moved Court No. 1 to Centre Court so it could be finished indoors.
In the last men’s fourthround match, Novak Djokovic took a medical timeout to have his right shoulder massaged, and he declared himself disappointed with the condition of the turf in the main stadium. Otherwise, Djokovic had little trouble eliminating 51stranked Adrian Mannarino of France 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in a match postponed Monday night because of darkness.
“It’s been something that I’ve been dragging back and forth for a while now,” Djokovic said about his shoulder. “But I’m still managing to play, which is the most important thing.”
The men’s quarterfinals today: Djokovic against Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer against Milos Raonic, defending champion Andy Murray against Sam Querrey, and Marin Cilic against Gilles Muller, who stunned Rafael Nadal in a marathon that ended 15-13 in the fifth set Monday.
Venus Williams finds herself one victory away from reaching the Wimbledon women’s singles final after beating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
Jelena Ostapenko chases down a ball near the net during Tuesday’s women’s singles quarterfinal match against Venus Williams at Wimbledon. Ostapenko ran out of gas late in losing 6-3, 7-5.
Simona Halep missed a chance to move to No. 1 in the WTA rankings after losing to Johanna Konta 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4.