In Australia earlier this year, Venus Williams beat CoCo Vandeweghe in the semifinals and celebrated like she’d won the entire tournament.
After beating Johanna Konta at the same stage of Wimbledon six months later, the reaction was contained to a satisfied fist-pump and smile.
In Australia, Venus deferred to the greatness of younger sister Serena, who beat Venus in sweeping to her 23rd major title.
After falling to Garbine Muguruza in Saturday’s Wimbledon final, the response was decidedly cooler.
It was unsurprising. After the thrill in Melbourne of advancing to a major final for the first time in eight years, Williams is a genuine contender again. She felt she was a shot an an incredible sixth Wimbledon trophy, one that would have made her the oldest female Grand Slam champion in Open Era history.
But despite her vast experience, especially on this stage, a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over her opponent, and holding two set points, she fell short.
It was the first time in 20 years she’d lost to a player, apart from sister Serena, in a Grand Slam final.
She was in no mood to be warm and fuzzy when a reporter asked her to explain just how she was producing such a high level at the advanced age of 37.
“I believe that those are not my thoughts or words, that I’m not supposed to be doing this. I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now,” she bristled.
Historically, not personally, the reporter clarified. What did she have inside her giving her the ability to still reach these heights?
“I think some good tennis,” she replied curtly.
Very rarely has Williams been shut out so comprehensively in a big match. From 5-4 up in the first set, she failed to win a single game.
She claimed to have paid little attention to the scoreline, acknowledging only that is was “not ideal”. She put the second-set blowout down to “(going) for some big shots” that “didn’t land.” When asked what she could have done differently to stem the tide, she said she hadn’t yet fully processed the match and didn’t have an answer. She credited Muguruza for simply playing a better match.
What the result seems to have done was stoke Williams’ competitive fires – which were already blazing bright.
Ranked No.9 as of Monday and up to fourth place in the WTA Race to Singapore, Venus is well positioned for a strong run on the US hardcourts which have been another happy hunting ground for her over the years.
“There’s always something to learn from matches that you win and the ones that you don’t win. So there’s definitely something for me to learn from this. But at the same time looking back, it’s always about looking forward, too,” said the two-time US Open champion.
“This is where you want to be. I like to win. I don’t want to just get to a final. It’s just about playing a little better.
“Definitely I’m in good form. I’ve been in a position a lot of times this year to contend for big titles. That’s the kind of position I want to keep putting myself in. It’s just about getting over the line.
“I believe I can do that.”
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