July 12, 2017
Venus Williams is just two matches away from Wimbledon glory for the first time in nine years.
And in a match-up the entire tennis world can’t wait to see, Venus now faces the British sensation, Johanna Konta for a place in the final.
That means the women’s final will feature a player with massive box-office appeal, one way or the other.
Either Konta will be there, hoping to become the first British woman to win Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1977.
Or Venus will be in the final instead, looking to make history by claiming her sixth singles title here, some twenty years after she first played this tournament.
At the age of 37, Williams seems to be showing no less hunger or power than she did in her prime.
As sister Serena takes time out to have her baby, Venus clearly realises this could be her time.
And what sweet timing it would be, should Venus take the title at her 20th Wimbledon.
Her opponent shouldn’t be swayed by the sporting romance attached to Williams and her extraordinary longevity.
Konta is on a roll, says she has been thinking of moments such as these since she was nine years old, and isn’t about to back away from the challenge now.
She came back from a set down to beat Simona Halep on Tuesday, and in doing so denied the Romanian the world number one spot.
Centre Court was in raptures as the British fans took Konta to their hearts and cheered her home to a 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 victory. At times the quality of the match was breathtaking.
There seemed to be no end to the thrills women’s tennis provided on Centre Court, after Venus had won a feitsy slugfest against the French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko.
Legendary commentator John McEnroe said later: ‘The only surprise is that people haven’t been naming Venus as favourite for the tournament earlier, the way she has been playing.’
But Konta has been playing great tennis too, and won’t be steamrollered by Williams in front of her own crowd.
The sheer ferocity of the tennis lesson dished out by Venus to the hard-hitting Ostapenko came as something of a surprise, however.
The Latvian was hardly in the first set as Venus produced stunning power with her forehand and backhand.
Ostapenko did try to launch a comeback in the second. And Konta will have noted that Williams sometimes lacked mobility, especially if she was placed under massive pressure.
When she might have tried to stretch for a backhand defensive shot, Venus occasionally didn’t even bother, appearing to show her age in those moments.
But such moments were few and far between, and Ostapenko grew frustrated as her aim failed her and Venus tightened her grip.
Konta must guard against giving Venus too much respect when they do battle on Thursday.
Johanna admitted: ‘I think what Venus and her sister Serena have given our sport is absolutely tremendous. The way they have elevated women’s tennis is truly inspiring. So I feel very excited and very humbled to be sharing the court with her again.’
It’s nice of Konta to pay her dues, but she needs to change that “star-struck” mindset completely if she is going to win.
Venus will be taking no prisoners and Konta must be highly aggressive from the start if she is to give herself the best possible chance of victory.
Whoever wins the battle will face either Garbine Muguruza or Magdalena Rybarikova in the final.
But neither Rybarikova nor Muguruza will receive anything like the support that Konta or Venus will generate.
Wimbledon fans love a good story and a popular heroine. Johanna Konta and Venus Williams definitely fit the bill.
So we are promised something very special indeed at both semi-final and final stage in this, already one of the great Wimbledon Championsips.
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