For Venus, age is strength
Whether she wins Wimbledon 2017 or not, Venus Williams remains the most polished, complete player on a WTA tour rich with improving young players.
In the eyes of many reporters and fans, her only “weakness” is her age, 37.
It’s “age-ism”, discrimination based on age, what some academics call “the only form of discrimination still acceptable in America.”
What if her age, 37, is an advantage?
“I don’t think about the definition of age. It’s beautiful to be at all ages really,” Venus told a press conference at Wimbledon. “I definitely think experience helps, for sure. For a lot of the players I’ve played, it’s their first time in the third round or the quarter-finals. So I have an opportunity to bank on experience in having dealt with those sort of pressures before.”
“I feel quite capable, to be honest, and powerful,” Venus told a press conference Tuesday. “Whatever age that is, as long as I feel like that, then I know that I can contend for titles every time.”
“I love the challenge. I love 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. The competition keeps you growing. You have to get better if you want to stay relevant.”
When I asked Garbine Muguruza what makes Venus different than other players, she cited her experience of 20 Wimbledons, and knowing how to deal with pressure and playing the important points.
Muguruza said that she herself feels more confident and composed in pressure situations, but her record the past few years shows a tendency toward inconsistency and emotional roller-coasters.
Compared with Venus, who has won five titles at Wimbledon, other contenders to win The Championships are basically “works in progress”.
Jelena Ostapenko can slug toe-to-toe with Williams, but Venus took advantage of Ostapenko’s flawed service mechanics and creampuff second serves at 70 mph.
Ostapenko, 20, has many years ahead of her to eliminate weaknesses and improve her game to the highest levels. So do players such as Simona Halep and Jo Konta.
But “potential”, as Kobe Bryant’s father Joe once told me, only means that “you haven’t done it yet.”
Venus has done it. Nobody else has, at least at Wimbledon.
Halep, 25 and Konta, 26, played a thrilling quarter with heroic flashes on Tuesday, but both showed inabilities to consistently impose their games and hold leads. Konta, serving well all tournament, repeatedly took leads in points and games but had trouble closing, and she showed poor shot selection taking aggressive swings at aggressive targets from defensive positions — instead of just defending.
Halep put up a defensive wall but also couldn’t hold her first set lead, and she eventually broke down under Konta’s pressure.
These were relatively rookie mistakes compared to the solid performances of Venus.
Naomi Francois “Osaka”, also 19, hit fizzing slice serves out wide and a 117 mph body blow in the round of 16, but Venus found success targeting her backhand volley, which is very much a work in progress.
Venus herself isn’t perfect. But she has long established her identity and figured out winning formulas. She’s clearly the favorite to win Wimbledon. Her age, 37, should make all the difference.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)