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Venus Williams makes Wimbledon history, faces Jelena Ostapenko next

by USA Today All Sports

Sandra Harwitt, Special for USA TODAY 

 

WIMBLEDON, England — Women’s tennis has been dominated by the name Williams for 20 years now and that trend is still alive and well at Wimbledon.

While Serena Williams, the most decorated player of the Open Era with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her credit, is awaiting the birth of her first child at home, her older sister, Venus, is capably handling the family responsibility on court.

At 37, Williams is looking younger than her years as she journeyed to the Wimbledon quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 27th seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia in 64 minutes Monday.

The 10th seed, Williams’ quarterfinal Tuesday will cross generational lines as the five-time Wimbledon champion plays 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko, the reigning French Open champion, for a spot in the semifinals.

Williams’ last two opponents here — Konjuh and Naomi Osaka of Japan — are 19-year-olds who weren’t even born when Williams played at Wimbledon for the first time in 1997. Ostapenko was at least alive when Williams played that first-round match, but barely so, as she was born June 8, 1997 in Riga, Latvia.

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Williams is not only the oldest player in the women’s field here, but at 37 years and 29 days, she’s the oldest women’s Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Martina Navratilova reached the finals in 1994. Navratilova was 37 years, 258 days old at the time.

“I think that the game has changed a lot in terms of the depth and the power since the first time I won (here in 2000),” Williams said. “I would say that’s the biggest difference in the game. And of course, I’ve matured, learned a lot about the game since that time. It’s really a big difference.”

It’s probably a good personality trait of Ostapenko’s that no situation appears to unnerve her on court as Williams boasts such a storied history. Although it was Williams’ sister, Serena, whom Ostapenko idolized as a child, she is well aware that Venus Williams has a not so puny collection of seven Grand Slam singles trophies.

This first meeting between the two will be Williams’ 100th match at Wimbledon — she currently has an 85-14 record at the All England Club.

“She’s such a great player,” said Ostapenko. “I will just go on court and enjoy the match because I really have nothing to lose.

“The first couple of matches (here) were tough,” added Ostapenko, who defeated fourth seed Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine 6-3, 7-6 (6) on Monday. “I wasn’t playing my best. But I still won. I was fighting. So I think that’s the key for getting your confidence and playing better and better.”

For second seed Simona Halep of Romania, the stakes are even higher after she secured a 7-6 (3), 6-2 fourth-round win against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. A two-time French Open finalist in 2014 and ’17, Halep is also in the running to take over the world No. 1 ranking.

Now that Angelique Kerber lost in the quarterfinals to Garbine Muguruza on Monday, it is a given Kerber will relinquish the top spot in the next rankings.

If Halep comes through her quarterfinal meeting against sixth seed Johanna Konta of Britain, she takes over No. 1 for the first time in her career. Of course, squaring off against Konta on Centre Court, with the crowd pulling for the hometown player, could be a tough ask for Halep.

In career WTA meetings, Konta holds a 2-0 lead over the Romanian, but Halep won their Fed Cup match in April.

“I’m here just to give my best,” Halep said. “I know that it’s going to be very difficult match, like everyone. But I believe that I have a chance. I’m ready for it.”

If Halep falls in the quarterfinals, third seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who lost to now first-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the second round, earns her first foray at the top of the rankings.

Muguruza plays seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, a two-time Grand Slam champion, on Tuesday. Kuznetsova ousted ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-4.

The other quarterfinal pits American CoCo Vandeweghe against Rybarikova. Vandeweghe, who reached the Australian Open semifinals this year, posted a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win against fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki. The 87th-ranked Rybarikova took out Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.


Written by News Desk


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