Wil­liams fights on at age 37

Vic­tory by Venus stokes mom’s fire

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

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.

AP/ALASTAIR GRANT

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.

AP/TIM IRELAND

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.

AP/TIM IRELAND

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.

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