Venus Rising: Williams back in Grand Slam semis
LONDON — In some ways, making it to a Grand Slam semifinal is rather been-there, done-that for Venus Williams.
She is, after all, already the owner of seven major titles, including five at Wimbledon. This one, though, is different. She’s 36 now, a half-dozen years removed from her last such run. And, in the interim, she has been through the daily struggles of dealing with a disease that can sap energy and cause joint pain.
Williams made it to the final four at the All England Club for the first time since 2009, and at any Grand Slam tournament since the year after that, playing mistake-free to beat Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
“Semifinals feels good. But it doesn’t feel foreign at all, let’s put it that way,” said Williams, whose first Wimbledon title came in 2000 and whose most recent came in 2008. Asked to compare her current level of play to that of the past, Williams shook her head, shut her eyes and laughed.
“I don’t remember. Six years ago is ages ago,” she responded. “I was most likely kicking butt six years ago, if I was in the semis or the finals. You have to be.”
Just like in the old days, Williams will be joined in the semifinals by a familiar face — younger sister Serena, who moved closer to equaling Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22nd Grand Slam championships by defeating 21st-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-4, taking the last three games of each set. Serena hit 11 aces, including one at 123 mph to end it.
This, then, is the latest chapter of the remarkable Williams sister tale: a pair of siblings from Compton, California, who rose to the top of tennis. It’s the 11th time they’ve reached the semis at the same major; in all previous 10, one took home the trophy. That includes four all-in-the-family finals at Wimbledon, with Venus winning in 2008, and Serena in 2002, 2003 and 2009.
On Thursday, they will try to set up another title match when No. 1 Serena faces unseeded Elena Vesnina, while No. 8 Venus meets No. 4 Angelique Kerber.
“It just means that she has a lot of perseverance. She’s a real fighter,” Serena said about Venus, the oldest woman in a major semifinal since 1994, when Martina Navratilova was 37 at Wimbledon. “Like I always say, it’s super inspiring for me.”
Kerber, who surprised Serena in the Australian Open final in January for her first Grand Slam title, advanced by eliminating No. 5 Simona Halep 7-5, 7-6 (2). Vesnina, ranked 50th and never before a major quarterfinalist, moved on by overwhelming No. 19 Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2.