Friday, 6 July, 2007
There are some things in life that no one sees coming, and this year a lot of them seem to have the name Williams. Serena finished 2006 ranked 95, yet won the Australian Open; Venus was at 48 last December and, if anything, seemed even less likely than her younger sister to pull off enough of a miracle to reach a grand slam final again.
We know how the chorus goes now – they’re too interested in their extra-curricular activities; they’re too far down the rankings; they’ve lost interest. But here it comes again – the meteor hurtling out of a clear blue sky, the celestial stunner called Venus Williams.
It can’t be, it just can’t. Surely this is a chapter we’ve read before, two years ago? Back then absolutely no one tipped her for the title, and she took it just the same. Here we are in 2007 and Venus is setting a new record as the lowest seeded ladies player to make a Wimbledon final. She is seeded 23 this year (and ranked eight places lower than that).
Two years ago, when nobody thought she had a shout, she was seeded a comparatively heady 14 and went on to win her third Wimbledon crown. Today she marked her 50th career singles win at Wimbledon by winning through to her sixth final in eight years.
One of these days we’ll learn not to dismiss her chances, and it might be a good idea if we started now by considering her a mighty good bet for the title. Who says? Nine-times champion and all-time Wimbledon queen Martina Navratilova, that’s who.
“I haven’t seen Venus look this good in a long time,” said an awed Navratilova after Venus trampled Ana Ivanovic 6-1, 6-3
. “I think she’s playing better now than she did two years ago when she won the title.
“On her serve she is unrelenting. How great is she covering the court? So fast. She’s been so imposing at the net. She’s been playing better and better every match, and here she is in the final again, playing dominating tennis. She’s going to be hard to beat in the final, no question about it. Who would have thought it after two of her first three matches here?”
Who indeed? Against Hana Sromova, ranked 170 in the world, Williams struggled horribly before scraping home 7-5 in the third, while 71st-ranked Akiko Morigami served for the match before more or less handing it back.
But everybody was looking at the wrong sister when it came to forecasting the pivotal match of the tournament. From the moment the draw was made, the universal view was that Serena’s quarter-final against Justine Henin would be the match everyone would be waiting for.
But it turned out to be Venus’s last 16 encounter with Maria Sharapova that altered the course of The Championships. Williams produced a stunning display, which she somehow bettered in her quarter-final match against Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Now Venus has crushed young gun Ivanovic, and while some thought it was possible a Williams would make the final here, no one thought it would be this one.
She is working up a mighty competitive head of steam, and if she can keep this momentum going, then she has every chance of taking a fourth Wimbledon title against all the odds.
She powered Sharapova off the court. She struck the ball brilliantly against Kuznetsova. Today she simply continued in the same vein, and at the moment there is no sign that any of this will come to a juddering halt tomorrow.
It is difficult not to be gladdened by the thought of her in the final. Frankly, the competitive quality is likely to be that much more acute with a Williams there rather than the young Ivanovic.
The Serbian simply folded last month against Justine Henin in the French Open, and for a while today it seemed her semi-final against Venus would last about as long as it takes Novak Djokovic to bounce the ball before delivering a serve. Ivanovic eeked matters out a little longer than that, but not much.
The huge fighting instinct instilled by Richard Williams in his daughters seems to come bursting out of them when the occasion is at its biggest. In any case, Venus at Mach 1 remains one of the wonders of the tennis world, an extraordinary sight – and sound.
For such a curiously ungainly player, at her best she is devastatingly effective, barking out loud her investment of effort in each stroke. Look out, world. The star called Venus is shining again. Prepare to be dazzled.
Written by Kate Battersby
Simply Stunning, Simply Serena
57 Consecutive Weeks as World #1
Olympic Gold Medalist ('00 Doubles w/ Venus)