Wimbledon 2017

Tennis: Venus eclipses rising star

Venus Williams returns against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko during their quarter final. She converted all three of her break point opportunities.
Venus Williams returns against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko during their quarter final. She converted all three of her break point opportunities.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ostapenko beaten in straight sets, veteran is oldest semi-finalist at SW19 since 1994

LONDON • Venus Williams' last three opponents at Wimbledon have been aged 20 or under and, one by one, she has vanquished them, proving at 37 that Grand Slam tennis is not solely the preserve of the Love Island generation.

Yesterday, it was the turn of the talented Jelena Ostapenko, who was just one month old when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997. But the new star of the women's game, fresh from her victory at the French Open, was unable to find a way past an old hand.

Williams sealed a 6-3, 7-5 victory with an unanswerable serve to become the oldest women's semi-finalist since Martina Navratilova in 1994. The American's victory also equalled her 35-year-old sister Serena's total of 86 main-draw match victories at Wimbledon, the most among any active player.

She will climb back into the top 10 but becoming the tournament's oldest champion in the Open era by breaking the record Serena set last year is her sole focus.

Twenty years after making her Wimbledon debut, Williams was playing in her 100th singles match at SW19, while Ostapenko was in only her eighth. That gulf in experience was immediately apparent when Williams broke in the second game and cruised through the first set.

Having stunned the tennis world by becoming the first unseeded player to win the French Open last month, Ostapenko was riding an 11-match winning streak at the Grand Slams. But the 20-year-old was the youngest player left in the tournament and Williams has scythed through the draw by dispatching a series of opponents almost half her age, many of whom idolised the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion growing up.

Williams was just too canny for the fresh-faced Ostapenko, manoeuvring her out of position time and again before delivering the killer shot.

  • 86 

    Main-draw victories by Venus Williams at Wimbledon, equalling her sister Serena's record at the All England Club.

After breaking in the third game of the second set, Williams moved into a 3-1 lead, then endured her only wobble as Ostapenko broke back. But the American was unfazed and shattered Ostapenko's spirit with another break before serving out a commanding win.

Williams, who reached the last of her eight Wimbledon finals in 2009, will face either Britain's Johanna Konta or Romania's Simona Halep in the last four tomorrow.

Earlier, Garbine Muguruza powered into her second Wimbledon semi-final in the last three years with an emphatic 6-3, 6-4 win over Russian seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open last year, Muguruza has struggled to return to the top and this is her first Major semi-final since then.

The 23-year-old is being coached by Conchita Martinez, who became the only Spanish woman to win Wimbledon in 1994, and the lessons appear to have done the trick.

"I played good. I'm trying not to think a lot, just go for it and play my game. I'm happy it worked out," she said. "It seems far away since I last made the final here. I'm a completely different player. It means a lot to make the semi-finals again, my breakthrough was here."

Kuznetsova enjoyed strong starts in both sets but failed to capitalise and it was Muguruza's superior serving and movement that proved decisive on Court One.

Muguruza, beaten by Serena in the 2015 Wimbledon final, will face Coco Vandeweghe or Magdalena Rybarikova in the last four.



Men's singles q-finals: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Venus eclipses rising star'. Print Edition | Subscribe