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4:22PM

Newsday (N.Y.): Wimbledon: Venus Williams to face Garbine Muguruza in 9th final

3:43PM

Once again at Wimbledon, it’s the Age of Venus

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON,  England — She hasn’t changed all that much over the years. Venus Williams always acted with a sense of responsibility. Played that way too. Younger sister Serena, as younger offspring often tend to be, was more emotional, more expressive, more likely to say or do, well, just about anything.

Venus, however, was measured, in actions and words. She never would have worn a T-shirt to a press conference with a double-entendre, as Serena did at Wimbledon. Wouldn’t have chewed out a linesperson with a burst of obscenities, as Serena did at the U.S. Open.

And yes, especially since 2011, when Venus disclosed she had the autoimmune disase Shjogren’s syndrome while Serena, in one stretch, won four consecutive Grand Slam events, Venus was somewhat in the shadows. Except in her own mind.

Retirement? Not a chance. “I mean,” she said Tuesday, “I love this game.”

An hour or so earlier, under the roof at Centre Court on the day the rain returned to Wimbledon, Venus defeated Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 7-5, in a quarterfinal. That Venus is 37 and Ostapenko is 20 meant nothing, except in terms of experience in a key match on the grass court.

Williams had years of it, Ostapenko only days.

Twenty years Venus has played at Wimbledon — starting in June 1997, weeks after Ostapenko was born. One hundred matches Venus has played at Wimbledon.

“It’s a beautiful game,” she said. ”It’s been good to me.”

As she and Serena, pregnant and not playing this Wimbledon, have been good for tennis, particularly American tennis.

Venus’ first pro match was in October 1994 at Oakland Arena, the building that later became Oracle Arena. She was the 14-year-old with her hair in beads, touted by her father, Richard, as a future great. As now many are touting Ostapenko, who won the French Open a month ago.

Ostapenko’s time should come. Venus’ time is now. Or maybe more accurately, then and now. She made it to the quarters in her second Wimbledon, 1998, and won it her fourth Wimbledon, 2000. And four times after that.

She’s the oldest woman to get to the semis since, as nine-time champ Martina Navratilova, doing commentary for BBC television, told the audience, “Me.”

Navratilova also was 37 that year. And made it to the finals, losing to Conchita Martinez.

For Venus to reach her first Wimbledon final since losing to Serena eight years ago, she will need to defeat Johanna Konta of Great Britain in their semifinal Thursday.

“I’m sure she’s confident and determined,” said Williams of Konta.

No more determined than Venus.

“I love the challenge,” Williams insisted. ”I love the pressure. It’s not always easy dealing with the pressure. There’s constant pressure. It’s only yourself who can have the answer for that.

“I love the last day you play. You’re still improving. It’s not something that’s stagnant. You have to get better. I love that.”

She had to love her serve, always the weapon. Venus started quickly, winning the first three games. Then in the second set, Ostapenko, having recovered her poise, seemed on the verge of at last breaking serve. But, zing, Venus powered an ace. It was going to be her game, set and match.

“I mean, she was playing good today,” said Ostapenko, who is from Latvia. “She was serving well. She was very tough to break. Because of that I had more pressure, because I had to keep my serve. I mean, she is a great player.”

And has been for two decades, a constant.

“It’s definitely a real asset,” Williams said of her serve. “Been working on that serve. Would like to think I can continue to rely on it as the matches continue.”

At the most, there are only two more matches.

“You do your best while you can,” said Williams. No flippancy, no arrogance. Just the straightforward comments of the older sister.

“I don’t think about age,” said Venus. ”I feel quite capable and powerful. Whatever age that is, as long as I feel like that then I know I can contend for titles every time.”

At Wimbledon once more, it’s the Age of Venus.

1:37PM

Wimbledon: Quitters, flying bugs, wins for Querrey and Venus

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — That’s what Wimbledon needed, a little plug to remind one and all that despite two withdrawals during matches at Centre Court — “Fans cheated as players take appearance fee then quit early,” was the headline in the Times of London — and despite an attack of “flying ants,” it remains the premier tournament in tennis.

“It’s like the Masters for golf,” said Sam Querrey, understandably expressive Wednesday after his 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia — not the state but the country, where Zaza Pachulia of the Warriors grew up.

Querrey grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and he knows his sporting venues. He also knows how to play tennis.

A year ago he stunned the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, in the third round here, and Djokovic hasn’t won a Grand Slam since.

Of course, John McEnroe, who won a lot of Slams (three of the four, missing out on the French) and now comments on everything from the Mets (his team) to Medvedev (first name Danil, a Russian who was beaten Wednesday) blames Djokovic’s recent failings on “off-court issues with the family.”

McEnroe, who knows how to get attention, a necessity when you’re commenting for ESPN and the BBC, then tossed in Tiger Woods. “When he had issues with his wife,” McEnroe said on the BBC, “he seemed to go completely off the rails.”

John, dating back to his year at Stanford, never has been lacking in opinions. So here at the world’s oldest tennis event — it started in 1877 — there were two references to golf, if one, from Querrey, could be described as positive.

Also positive was Venus Williams’ play on an afternoon when the temperature in the greater London area pushed past 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Williams came back after being outplayed in the first set to beat Qiang Wang of China, 4-6, 6-4, “I was always thinking about how I could turn it around,” said Williams.

The All-England Club officials turned around her media post-match interview before it started, the moderator telling reporters to stick to tennis. That meant no questions, as there had been on Monday, about her auto accident in Florida that resulted in one person’s death.

The match against Wang was the 97th played at Wimbledon by the 37-year-old Venus. “Wow,” Williams said when informed. “I’d love to reach 100. That would be awesome.”  A five-time Wimbledon singles champion, Williams could hit the century mark next week by reaching the quarterfinals.

Querrey hasn’t gone that far here, but he speaks of the tournament reverently. “It’s the best tournament,” he said. “Everything about it is unique and fun. The grounds are immaculate. I like playing on grass anyway, so that helps.

“Wimbledon, it feels like a bucket-list thing, not only for players but to fans, moreso than the other three Slams. It’s had that aura around it for a long time. Hopefully that will continue.”

As opposed to the withdrawals, the opponents of both seven-time winner Roger Federer and three-time champ Novak Djokovic taking a hike before the matches Tuesday on Centre Court were played to legitimate conclusion. Each halted after 45 minutes because of announced injuries. The hurting — or least the guilty parties — were Alexandr Dolgopolov and Martin Klizan.

“A player should not go on court if he knows he should not finish,” said Federer. “The question is, did they truly believe they were going to finish?”

The ATP (formerly the Association of Tennis Professionals), the men’s tour, allows a player to twice a year withdraw before a first-round match and still collect his prize money. Once the match starts, however, no replacement can be used, so people who bought tickets get only a partial match for their money.

A second headline in the Times was “Wimbledon crackdown on quitters,” but there hasn’t been a crackdown, only discussions.

Another subject Wednesday was the insects. ”I don’t know they had them on every court,” said Querrey. He was informed his location, Court 18, in a corner of the grounds, was one of the worst.

“Never seen it before,” said Querrey. “I lost the set when the ants came. If I won that, probably wouldn’t have bugged me as much.”

Pretty good quote, Sam.

4:23PM

Newsday (N.Y.): Venus Williams breaks down at Wimbledon discussing fatal crash

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England — Venus Williams said there were “no words to describe” how she felt about the fatal traffic accident she was involved in last month.

Following a 7-6 (7), 6-4 first-round win over Elise Mertens in her 20th Wimbledon on Monday, Williams had to confront questions about the accident that caused the death of a Florida man. Williams was asked about a Facebook post from last week in which she wrote how “devastated and heartbroken” she was by the accident.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2017 Newsday. All rights reserved.

9:37PM

Venus makes more history at Indian Wells

By Art Spander

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The little sister — is it fair to describe Serena Williams that way? — withdrew a few days earlier because of an injury. And now, despite chants on her behalf from the crowd, it seemed Venus Williams was also out of here, a second-round loser in the BNP Paribas Open.

Venus was crushed in the first set, and after first falling behind 4-1 in the second set she was facing match point, as well as facing a competitor she knows all too well, Jelena Jankovic.

“There’s a lot of history out here with us,” Venus would say later  And on this Saturday, when the temperature reached 92 degrees, Williams would create more, rallying for a 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory.

She’s always had the determination and now, three months from her 37th birthday, Venus still has the game.

Two California girls, in a way, Venus, born and raised in Compton, the tough suburb of Los Angeles, and Jankovic, the Serb who with her winnings and endorsements built a 20,000-square-foot home in Rancho Santa Fe, where Phil Mickelson resides, west of the San Jacinto miles from this desert locale, near the Pacific Ocean.

This is the first big tournament every year following the Australian Open, with both men and women in competition, like the four Grand Slams. 

Back in 2001, when the world was different, and people less understanding or forgiving, the Williams sisters were to meet in a semi here at Indian Wells.

The day before, Elena Dementieva accused the girls’ father, Richard, of deciding who would win family matches — she later said it was a joke — and when Venus pulled out four minutes before the scheduled start the crowd was outraged.

Boos filled the stadium. Two days later, when Serena defeated Kim Clijsters, the derision continued. Richard Williams said the predominantly white crowd booing his African-American daughters was pure racism. The Williams sisters refused to enter the event, not yet known as the BNP, year after year. Finally in 2015, Serena, after soul-searching and many discussions, returned, and then last year Venus did, to the delight of the tournament and the fans.

The spectators, thinking Venus was done Saturday, started chanting and applauding rhythmically, as if they were at a football game, “Let’s go Vee-nus. Let’s go Vee-nus.”

She went. And in their 13th meeting of a rivalry that began in 2005 and was even at six wins apiece, Williams found her game. Jankovic, once No, 1 but never a Grand Slam winner, lost hers. And the match.

“At match point she was off to the side,” the 32-year-old Jankovic said of Venus, “and all I had to was hit it. It was a big mistake, a bad error. I’m still nervous after coming back from injuries last year. Venus played well. I had my chances.”

In any sport, particularly tennis, one must take advantage of those chances. They come so infrequently that when squandered — particularly against a champion such as Venus, who was in the final of the Australian two months ago, losing to Serena — a victory turns into defeat.

“Venus is a great champion,” said Jankovic, “She plays so well.”

In her first tournament since Australia, Venus started slowly, to be kind. In the desert, dry and hot, balls fly farther than in more lush, humid areas. Williams was spraying shots long and wide.

“That’s why they have a second set,” said Williams, who then forced a third, appropriately ending that the match with a service ace.

“I think the biggest takeaway from the Australian for me,” said Venus, “was just even more confidence. That's the biggest takeaway. I definitely look forward, like, all right, I want to build on that and continue to play well and to just improve my game, which is what I worked on.

“So I'm not necessarily living in the past. It just makes me more excited for the future.”