Look at how Venus Williams served, hit her groundstrokes and moved around throughout Wimbledon, especially in the semifinal against Johanna Konta, and you would not be able to tell that this woman is 37 years old. And yet, with her foray into the Wimbledon final, she has become the oldest woman to reach the summit clash in London going past Martina Navratilova who had played the 1994 final against Conchita Martinez when 34 (and lost). She has five Wimbledon titles to her name and yet the hunger and urge to win is still alive and looks more present now than it did in the recent past.
There are quite a lot of numbers to keep in mind here: Venus is going after her sixth Wimbledon, ninth Grand Slam, her first Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon in 2000 when she was 20 and this is her first Wimbledon final in eight years. So the last time she was vying for the title, she was in her late 20’s and now she is in her mid-30’s – sounds a bit insane to swallow in a sport that has become more physical than ever and tests the endurance level. Add to that, Venus suffered the energy-sapping illness Sjogren’s disease in 2011 which forced her to miss many tournaments and make early exits at some.
But, she has bounced back in superb fashion over the last 12 months. Venus reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year (losing to Angelique Kerber) and the finals of Australian Open this year (losing to sister Serena).
To put the entire scenario in one word – BAFFLING!
“I’m definitely in the position I want to be in. It’s a long two weeks. Now, knocking on the door for a title. This is where I want to be. There’s still a lot to be done. I have one more match that I’d like to be the winner of,” Venus said. “I have to go out there and take it and play well,” she added.
In her path stands Garbine Muguruza. There are some connections to make between Venus and Muguruza but in an indirect manner. The last time Muguruza was in the Wimbledon final was in 2015 and she lost to Serena – Venus’ sister. The American has edged Navratilova to become the oldest Grand Slam finalist and on the day, Navratilova was beaten by Conchita who is currently in Muguruza’s corner as her interim coach.
The aim is definitely to keep the Venus Rosewater Dish within the family. And the Williams sisters have maintained strong dominance over the title since turning professional. Since the turn of the century, Williams sisters have won 12 of the 16 titles with Serena winning the last two. Venus would definitely bank on help from Serena on how to beat Muguruza. “Serena did play her in a final. I definitely will ask her. I’m sure she’s going to give me hopefully some things that will make a difference for me in the match,” said Venus after her semi-finals blitz past Konta.
“She’s been through her illness, and she keeps fighting through it, and it would just mean so much, not just for her but for people who suffer what she suffers just to realize that this isn’t, this doesn’t have to be it,” said Serena to Yahoo! Sports.
Muguruza spent just over an hour on court in her 6-1, 6-1 victory over Magdaléna Rybarikova in the semi-final and she has hailed the presence of Conhita in the stands which has given her an added boost. “I think she’s helping me to deal with the stress of the tournament, because it’s a long tournament,” the Spaniard said. “So she just knows how to prepare, how to train, what to do. Not that I’m doing something different, honestly. But to have her by my side gives me also this little confidence on having someone that has won before.”
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The ladies have played each four times with Venus coming out on top in three of them. But this is their first meeting on grass. Their most recent meeting was on the clay of Rome where Muguruza had won 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. “It’s good that she’s played her before, and that she’s beaten her. So she knows what’s to come,” Conchita said of Saturday’s match. “She just has to play tennis, and not worry about who’s favored or who isn’t favored. She needs to think about the next point and nothing else.”