By Jane Voigt
Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza won. They beat their opponents. Make no mistake about that. Their semi-final victories were not a matter of a few points. They were a matter of dominant, high-calibre tennis — power, control, mental superiority, flawless execution — that left Johanna Konta and Magdalena Rybarikova with no answers.
As a result, Williams enters her 9th Wimbledon final on Saturday and first since 2009, as the oldest woman in the Open Era, since Martina Navratilova in 1994, to play in a major final with her 6-4, 6-2 win over Konta.
“I love the challenge,” she told the press days ago. “It’s a beautiful game. It’s been good to me.”
Muguruza enters the final, her first of 2017 and second at Wimbledon (2015), with a game that could confound the sentimental favorite. She upset Serena Williams in the final at Roland Garros last year.
“I’ll be ready no matter who’s in front of me,” Muguruza said, as Tweeted by Ubitennis. “Venus knows how to play Wimbledon finals.”
Both women are formidable champions. Yet, Venus Williams has stretched her career over three decades, continually building a highway for the game’s good unlike anyone else … even Serena.
“I think what Venus and her sister have given our sport is absolutely tremendous,” Konta said after her semifinal win over number-two seed Simona Halep, The Independent reported. “The way they’ve elevated women’s tennis is truly inspiring. So I feel very excited and very humbled to be sharing the court with her again.”
Playing in her 20th Wimbledon, the American icon has come back from challenges to prevail, her age alone a deterrent for most. Add to that the tragic murder of her sister, a possible career-ending diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome, and the most recent mess … an erroneous accusation by her hometown police department in Palm Gardens, Fla., that she was at fault in the deadly car accident.
Bill Simons, founder and publisher of InsideTennis.com, asked Oracene Price, Venus’s mother, constant companion and life-long coach, why Venus has been able to get through so much. Her mother said it was ‘faith in God, belief in herself, and love of the game.’
For Muguruza, who is 23 and turned pro in 2011, confidence and reliance on her coaches have transformed her into a big-match player and winner.
“I think I played very well,” Muguruza told the BBC moments after defeating Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-1. “I stepped on the court super confident and everything went well.”
A newer addition to her team, Conchita Martinez, has been an asset as Muguruza plowed through the draw. Martinez denied Martina Navratilova her 10th Wimbledon title in 1994, after announcing that ‘grass is for cows.’
“Hopefully she can tell me some things,” Muguruza said. “She’s already given me some tips.”
The dominance from Williams and Muguruza played out on Centre Court.
Muguruza (No. 14) consistently stood on or inside the baseline. She took the ball early, pushing Rybarikova back while blunting her creative game.
“She’s the one on the baseline or over it,” Mary Jo Fernandez said, calling the match for ESPN. “She’s the one with the control on her racquet, coming in on good approach shots.”
Muguruza won 76% of net points played.
She only hit three aces, though, which equalled that from Rybarikova. However, one of those aces punctuated a love game that put her up 3-0 in the second set. At that moment, the match was 49 minutes old.
“It’s not fun to be Magdalena Rybarikova now,” Fernandez added. “No player likes to lose sets at love or 6-1.”
No matter the empathy pouring forth from commentators and fans inside Centre Court, the Slovakian could not put humpty back together again. Muguruza was in the zone. She intuitively knew the court, shot selections and the bigger picture of the match’s importance. An active mind was a peaceful one, for her.
“Not my best day,” Rybarikova said, tennis.com reported. “But she didn’t give me much chance to do something.”
Venus was the same. She schooled Konta on her game, a style presented to the world by Venus and Serena.
“When I win and I wave to the fans, I enjoy a relaxing moment,” Venus told the press, as Tweeted by Ubitennis. “When I play I’m so focused I don’t see anything around me.”
Konta was pressed to play bigger and better than she had in prior rounds, when she came from behind to feature her strong competitive nature. Because of the pressure from Venus and, perhaps, the occasion … her first semifinal at her home major, Konta overplayed, spraying balls long and wide. But it was Venus’s second serve that marked a difference in their encounter.
Venus’s winning percentage off her second serve was 65%, an astronomically high win rate. The same was true for Muguruza. Her winning percentage off her second serve was even higher: 69%. These two women risked big and won big. As a result, they prevented any strategies and tactics planned by their opponents.
“Now I’m knocking on the door for the title,” Venus said. “That’s the position I want to be in. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
“I’m going to enjoy being in another Grand Slam final,” Muguruza told the BBC. “And, I want to win, whoever I play.”
Game on … Saturday, Breakfast at Wimbledon, 9 a.m. EST, ESPN.