Midway through the first set of Venus Williams‘ match Carla Suarez Navarro, a gentle but very present weight laid on the hearts of both the fans watching one of Wimbledon’s greatest in the stands of Court 1 and those watching from their homes on television. Like most of her matches this fortnight, Williams started slowly. The very first game she sprayed three groundstrokes to find herself down break points. Navarro was steady and light-footed. Williams seemed stiff and unfocused. But as has been the theme both this tournament and year for Venus, she found the will inside herself to raise her game, come back from a break down, and take the first set in an authoritative tiebreaker. The fans roared in appreciation and anticipation of Venus Williams rising to the occasion in the second set. The rain, nor the Spaniards beautiful one handed backhand, could dampen the overwhelming support and love for Williams.
Venus Williams Rising
As Williams enters her quarterfinal match (the first time she has reached this round since 2010) with Yaroslava Shvedova, everyone from TV commentators, Twitter fans, and message board posters, can’t help but be caught up in the narrative of Venus Williams. A 36-year-old future hall-of-famer, who two years ago was counted down and out by most tennis experts, has over the course of the past two seasons, regained her form, found a way to manage her auto immune disease, reached the top 10 again, and qualified for yet another Olympics. How are all of these things happening, while so many asked how she would find the motivation? After having accomplished so much, then dealt with so many injuries and obstacles to clear, how does a 36 year old, who has dedicated her whole life to a sport find the will to climb that ladder again? Venus answered those questions and doubters, and has a chance put an exclamation point on her answer this week.
The graceful, bounding, reserved, powerful Venus Williams is playing some of the best tennis of her career, and it seems as if fate recognizes this and is laying the stage for a special moment in her career. Gone from her quarter of the draw are French Open champion and #2 seeded Garbine Muguruza, the ever dangerous Czech Lucie Safarova, and former finalist Sabine Lisicki. If Williams can get past the dangerous Shvedova, a tricky semifinal with either Simona Halep or Australian Open Champion Angelique Kerber awaits, but on grass, her chances against each seemed much improved. If Williams should advance to the semifinals of Wimbledon, it would be hard pressed to not find a true tennis fan, a common Sportscenter viewer, or a social media zealot who wouldn’t be pulling for the 5-time Wimbledon champion to make a Wimbledon final against her sister a reality. If she could reach the final against her sister, Serena, it would be a historic, special, emotional, and epic encounter for tennis regardless of result.
However, those are all hypotheticals and hyperbole at the moment. At hand, Williams has to get past 28 year old Kazakhstani. Shvedova, better known for her doubles success here at Wimbledon, has a game similar to Williams in many ways. An effective serve, big forehand, athletic, and always looking to move forward, she has had her most career success here at this tourney and will look to take her success one round further. She will be a difficult out for Williams, but if Williams’ body is able to recover, and Williams plays how she finished her match against Suarez-Navarro, a victory would seem likely. A victory that would bring a sharp focus for an event looking for an identity post Novak Dkjokovic’s loss, with so many narratives about “Golden Slams” and “5 in a row” being lost with Sam Querrey’s win.
The fact is that it would seem everyone is rooting for Venus Williams today, the day after, and possibly, hopefully Saturday. Her-life long fans, tennis spectators, arm chair pundits, and fans of history and sport– all of them forming one large bandwagon of fandom. There is a special glow, ora, an opal luminescence over her presence at this tourney and a world of sporting fans are waiting (hoping) to see just how brightly it will reflect off the aptly named Venus Rosewater Dish come Saturday afternoon.