July 5, 2016
First Venus, then Serena. It’s just like old times for the Williams sisters, both back in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Venus is there for the first time since 2009 after her dramatic victory over Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova.
At 36 she is the oldest semi-finalist for 22 years. But Venus will take all those references to her age if it means she is back in the big time again.
And she is, thanks to her 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 triumph, the first of Tuesday, women’s quarter-finals day, and a result that rolled back the years.
‘I love playing the game,’ said Venus. ‘And when you’re winning matches, it makes it that much sweeter.’
Sometimes experience can count – along with the determination to take every opportunity to progress. After all, who knows how many Slams Venus has left?
She was 2-5 down in the breaker and still she refused to crumble.
Her confidence to go to the net, her wingspan when she is there, the deadliness of her volley – all these components add up to a formidable grass court player.
Then you have her intensity, her psychological strength, the ability to impose herself on anyone less sure of themselves. Anyone daunted by the sight of the finishing line, even in an opening set, may not survive.
Talking of mental strength, Angelique Kerber had it on the big points – and Simona Halep didn’t.
Otherwise there wasn’t much to choose between the first quarter-finalists on Centre Court. Their rallies were highly entertaining. But their serves were so vulnerable that both were broken almost as a matter of routine. There were eight successive breaks in the first set alone and thirteen in all.
But when it really mattered, there was only one winner, as Kerber closed out the match 7-5, 7-6 (7-2). ‘It was a really high level match,’ said Kerber.
And it was – hugely enjoyable. Unless you were looking for lessons in how to hold serve.
As for Dominika Cibulkova, there will be no need to alter her wedding plans for Saturday. She won’t be in a Wimbledon final after all, despite her explosive efforts thus far.
There seemed to be simply nothing left in the Cibulkova tank after her punishing battle with Agnieszka Radwanska the previous day.
Instead it was Elena Vesnina who turned on the style and subdued the favourite with a 6-2, 6-2 win that even she couldn’t have imagined would be so straightforward.
Can the Russian do the same to Serena Williams, who dispatched Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-4, breaking at just the right time towards the end of each set?
You wouldn’t have thought so, but we gave up seriously trying to predict this incredible women’s tournament ages ago.
Can Venus beat Kerber in the other semi? Again, it seems less likely on balance. But these Williams sisters seem determined to meet in one last Wimbledon final.
And if they make it, Saturday will be a truly historic sporting occasion.