VENUS EDGING CLOSER TO SIXTH
Ashley Marshall | July 11, 2017
Wimbledon has had somewhat of an unfamilar feel to it this summer, with last year’s women’s champion not present to defend her title and the current and future world No. 1s leading a number of seeds going out in the first four rounds of play.
But one constant has been ever-present in London this week: Once again Venus Williams seems best-placed to add to her sure-fire Hall of Fame credentials on the London lawns.
Williams, seeded 10th at the All England Club, toppled French Open champion and No. 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 7-5, in the quarterfinals on Centre Court on Tuesday.
The victory advances the 37-year-old American into her 10th Wimbledon semifinal, where she’ll play hometown favorite Johanna Konta, again on Centre Court, on Thursday. Williams has won nine of 10 semifinals in SW19, going on to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
Only three of the world’s Top 10 players made the quarterfinals and, as the No. 6 seed, Konta is the highest-ranked player in the semifinals. In the top half of the draw, either No. 14 seed Garbiñe Muguruza or unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova will contest Saturday’s final.
Current world No. 1 Angelique Kerber fell Monday to Muguruza and No. 2 seed Simona Halep lost to Konta on Tuesday. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, who will rise to No. 1 in the new rankings on Monday, dropped her second-round match to surprise semifinalist Rybarikova, who on Tuesday ended the hope of an all-American semifinal by defeating CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-3, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.
Meantime, Williams kept the dream of a sixth Wimbledon title, and an eighth Grand Slam women’s singles crown, alive by prevailing in a battle of big hitters Tuesday, where margins were thin and decisive opportunities were few and far between.
The ageless Williams broke Ostapenko in the Latvian’s first service game and never faced a break point on her own racquet in racing out to a 6-3 opening-set advantage.
Things appeared to be headed in the same direction in the second, when the American consolidated another early break to forge ahead 3-1, but Ostapenko leveled things by breaking to 15 in the sixth game. The decisive moment came when Williams took advantage of a loose Ostapenko service game at 5-5, then served out the match to love at the very next opportunity.
Williams will now face Konta for a spot in the championship bout. The pair are no strangers to one another, having played five times over the past two years. Konta leads the head-to-head, 3-2, including wins in the final of the US Open Series event in Stanford, Calif., and in the first round of the Australian Open in 2016, when the then-unseeded Brit upset Williams in straight sets.
Williams won their most recent match, however, prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 on the red clay of Rome earlier this spring. They have never played on grass, although Williams’ reputation and record on Wimbledon’s lawn is unparalleled among her contemporaries remaining in the women’s field.
The tournament is living up to its billing as being wide open on the women's side, but Williams is now just two wins away from proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.