Venus ponders return to top form 20 years after first glory
Venus Williams pondered 20 years of success and setbacks since reaching her first US Open final on Tuesday after moving one victory shy of another New York hardcourts championship match.
The 37-year-old American, seeking her eighth Grand Slam title and third US Open crown, outlasted Czech 13th seed and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2).
Williams became the oldest US Open semi-finalist at 37 and the oldest in any Slam since Martina Navratilova in 1994 at Wimbledon.
US ninth seed Williams has the longest span between career Slam finals in women’s history, from the 1997 US Open to her Wimbledon loss to Garbine Muguruza in July.
Williams is set to jump into the WTA rankings top five for the first time since January 2011, her highest point since she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, a strength-sapping ailment.
If she beats Sloane Stephens on Thursday to reach Saturday’s final, Australian Open and Wimbledon runner-up Williams will reach her third Slam final of the year, a feat she so far has only achieved in 2002.
“Early 2000s, I mean, I had perfect health. It was great. I loved it,” Williams said. “I was fortunate to have that moment in my life. And now I’m still living my dream, and it’s amazing.”
Williams won Wimbledon and the US Open in 2000 and 2001 and took three more trophies on England grass before 2011 and Sjogren’s arrived. It took her five years before she managed to reach another Slam semi-final.
“I don’t accept limitations. So it took a while to accept some limitations,” Williams said. “But it doesn’t mean that the glass is half empty. I saw it as half full.
“Whatever I had, I had to do the best I could with that and to be the strongest I could and be reprehensible for each and every shot I hit.”
Williams pondered how many WTA players have had to overcome setbacks and return to champion form and the inspiration it can provide.
“Sport is a little microcosm of life and it shows the human spirit, just being out there on the court, fighting against all odds. If you’re down, you keep going,” Williams said.
“Great champions came back from injuries or circumstances they could never have planned for. It’s very encouraging for people to watch… You never know whose life you’ll touch just by being your best.”
Williams doesn’t believe in comparing matches or performances since what is needed for victory changes with every foe.
“I’m not into the whole best-match thing. It’s about winning the match you’re in,” she said. “Doesn’t matter whether you’re playing well or not playing well. It’s about figuring out how to win.
“If you’re out there thinking you have to play your best match every time, you’re not going to win these events. That’s too much of a high expectation.”
– Learning about Irma –
There are high expectations of another sort at the edge of her thoughts, with Hurricane Irma forecast to strike near her Florida home at the weekend.
“I haven’t watched Irma closely but perhaps I should know more,” Williams said. “I have a lot of family and important people in Florida and my whole life is there.”
But first, she will turn her attention to Stephens, who won their only prior meeting in the first round of the 2015 French Open.
“I have to focus on what’s happening on my side of the court, make evaluations when I’m out there in terms of strategy and see what’s working,” Williams said.