September 6, 2017
The evergreen Venus Williams has reached the US Open semi-finals after beating Petra Kvitova 6-3. 3-6, 7-6 (7-2).
But can she go all the way this time and win her eighth Grand Slam title, before her sister Serena returns to the tour to steal the show once more?
Venus has been brilliant this year, with terrific runs in Melbourne and London before setting the world alight again in New York.
She reached the final of the Australian Open, only to be beaten by her sister there.
Venus made it to the showpiece occasion at Wimbledon 2017 too, only to be overpowerd by some incredible tennis from Garbine Muguruza.
Two short months later and here she is again, storming through to the final stages with a typical combination of guts, know-how, elegance and power.
The slug-fest against Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, went right to the wire. The Czech was 3-1 ahead in the final set but double-faulted at the worst moment.
In the decisive tie-break, a sumptuous return at 1-1 gave Venus the edge and she never looked back. Playing the big points with more poise and accuracy, Williams accelerated to a 6-1 lead and enjoyed enough of a cushion to be able to falter before closing out with her second match point.
The crowd carried her all the way, as she admitted later: ‘I have to say I felt every single one of you guys behind me, all 23,000 and I couldn’t let you guys down,’ she told those who had stayed behind to listen to her interview.
Loyalties could be split at Flushing Meadows when Venus plays her fellow American, Sloane Stephens for the right to be a finalist.
But you sense that the tennis world longs for the most romantic outcome, the one that sees Venus lift her first Grand Slam crown since Wimbledon 2008.
If she wins through to her third Grand Slam final of the campaign, she might have to play another American – Madison Keys or CoCo Vandeweghe.
Alternatively the mighty Karolina Pliskova could be waiting, or even Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.
Still, is there anyone left in the draw who is simply too hot for Venus Williams to handle, if she plays her best tennis? The answer is no.
It will be tough for Venus, of course, particularly after her gruelling match against Kvitova. But this time the dream really could become a reality.
What an amazing moment it would be if Venus lifts the trophy at the age of 37, stepping out of her sister’s shadow again at last.
In a year of extraordinary success for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it would be fitting if a veteran like Venus tastes the same surprising glory.
And if sister Serena then comes back to dominate 2018, the legend of the Williams sisters will be immortalised.
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