July 14, 2017
‘Age cannot wither her’: Venus Williams’ Glorious Semi- Final Victory
From the moment I saw Venus Williams enter Centre Court, she was the epitome of cool, calm and collected. This was in direct contrast to her opponent Johanna Konta, who warmed up as if there were hot coals on the court as she bounced around to expel those pre-match nerves. On paper, the 11-year age gap of Williams at 37 to Konta at 26 is a huge advantage to the British player. On the court, however, Williams demonstrated the old adage that ‘age is just a number’, defeating Konta 6-4 6-2 to reach the Wimbledon final in what will be the twentieth Wimbledon Championship in her career.
As play started, Konta’s nerves were evident and in moments it became almost uncomfortable to watch; a series of lets and faults in the first set betrayed her anxiety.
There were moments during play, however, that her confidence and immediate performance skyrocketed as the crowd cheered for ‘JK’ and ‘Konta’. Clearly, they desperately wanted to see a British Woman win a Wimbledon Semi-Final for the first time in 40 years. A heart-warming moment in the second set came, when, after Konta lost a point due to two faults, all the Brits in Centre Court (including myself) spontaneously erupted with supportive cheers. She reacted immediately, winning the next point close to the net line in one of the few rallies which really challenged Williams, of which there were at least a few. I had to concur with my neighbour who murmured: ‘Jo is making Venus work, that’s for sure’. These moments, however, were mainly contained to the first set; at 4-4 in the first set, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope for the young Brit. But her opponent wasn’t going to entertain this hope for long. Williams broke Konta in an impressive series of seven points in a row, securing the first set and dashing the hopes of Konta and the eager crowd.
Observing Williams throughout the match, however, I could see that she was paying little attention to the crowd. Instead, she was focused on keeping up a relentless and ferocious assault on her opponent. Particularly visible was Konta’s faltering forehand, which struggled in the face of Williams’ aggressive serves which reached peaks of 115 mph during the 1hr 13 minutes of play. At one point, Williams delivered a serve which can only be accurately described as a bodily attack on the British No.1. Konta was defenceless against this brute force. Her meek return sent the ball to the bottom of the net; her body language betrayed her fright and relative helplessness in the face of Williams’ onslaught.
Konta herself recognises the balance of power which operated throughout the match. Speaking of Williams’ performance, she professes that “She did what she does well. She dictated from the first ball of the match to the last. She showed why she’s a five-time champion. It was hard to get a foothold in the match. The few opportunities I got she did well to take them from me.” With the exception of Konta’s moments of strength, many of which I believe were prompted by the immensely supportive crowd, Konta provides an accurate summary of the game. The two women were paragons of strength during play, but experience won Williams this match. Williams’ talent, and love for the game, at this stage, seems everlasting. In this case, age was not ‘just a number’, but the key to her victory.