Venus Williams dodged a wasp as she attempted to deliver the opening ball of her semi-final against Johanna Konta, but one way or another it was the Briton who ultimately got stung.
A fiercely focused opening set turned all in a rush when Williams pounced on Konta errors, and while the No.6 seed’s resourcefulness has seen her turn around more than one match at Wimbledon this fortnight, this time the tide against her was too strong.
Williams took the victory 6-4, 6-2 in 73 minutes. Now only Garbine Muguruza can stop the 37-year-old lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for a sixth time, and if she makes it she will become the oldest woman to do so in 109 years.
Say it loud… In her 20th Wimbledon, the brilliant, indefatigable American is through to her second Grand Slam final of the year and her first in SW19 since 2009, an achievement made all the more astonishing by the difficult off-court issues which she has been dealing with during this Fortnight.
Williams came into her post-match press conference an hour after she came off court still apparently in her match kit, without even the addition of a jacket. It was as if she was ready to play the final right there.
“It’s a long two weeks,” she said. “There’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs. I just try to hold my head up high, no matter what is happening in life. I take courage in the fact that I’ve been playing well this tournament and this year, and all these moments have led to this. I’m definitely excited, but I’m still very focused, knocking on the door for the title. There’s still a lot to be done.
“For me it’s just about betting on myself every time. When I look across the net, I don’t think it’s the right mentality to believe in that person more than me. It doesn’t mean that I’ve won every time, but I’ve tried to give myself the best chance no matter what the circumstances were. Experience can either work against you or for you. I like to think it’s working for me.”
As the home crowd on the Centre Court willed Konta to become the first British woman into the final since 1977, their heroine overcame a double fault with her very first delivery to stay with Williams in an intense first set.
So much hinged, as expected, on the quality of each woman’s second serve. When a hint of trouble appeared on the horizon, Konta delivered a second serve of 103mph to deal with it; but she failed to exploit a weak Venus second delivery at 3-3.
Next game it was the Briton who earned the very first break points of the match, but a fabulous second serve helped Venus dig her way out of trouble.
And that was where the match turned, because sudden errors saw Konta three set points down, and although she came up with a deep second serve to save one, a backhand went long on the next.
Konta was churning out the aces, adding seven to take her Championship-leading count to 35, but unusually she was also delivering more double faults than her opponent.
Outwardly, as ever, neither was giving much away, but those stone faces told a different story about each player.
For Venus, her beautiful emotional stillness showed again that the tennis court is where she finds tranquillity; while for Konta, it’s all about having an ordered mind, as if she is mentally organising her way to her fullest potential – a trait that Billie-Jean King has declared she loves about her.
But Konta could not find the mental path back in this match. At 1-2 in the second set she delivered her third double fault of the match to go three break points down.
She rescued two of them with a drop volley and a forehand respectively, but a Venus backhand down the line asked too much of Konta’s forehand. The Briton fended off two match points, but a third sealed the win for Venus.
Konta’s endeavours at Wimbledon 2017 will earn her a new career-high place in the top five when the latest rankings are released next Monday.
But this day, like so many others over so many years, belonged to the ever-astounding Williams. We thought the clock was ticking on Venus Williams’ career, but she is wiser than the rest of us.
It was she, and not us, who understood the true underlying story… you can’t turn back the clock, but sometimes you can find a way to wind it up again.
Source: Kate Battersby| Wimbledon