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Confident Venus

Seventy-three minutes was all it took for Venus Williams to claim her Round-of-8 match at Wimbledon the other day. At 10th, her seeding was three slots higher than that of Jelena Ostapenko, and she showed her advantage from the get-go; she took the first game off three aces, broke serve, and then consolidated with confidence, all in a span of 504 seconds. And from the way she moved throughout the contest, it didn’t look she was a 37-year-old, on-and-off competitor exactly two decades removed from her debut at the All-England Club. As far as she was concerned, she couldn’t have felt any better, her continuing bout with Sjogren’s Syndrome put off, even if temporarily, by her determination to succeed on the surface most suited to her skills.

Certainly, Williams started the way she needed to against Ostapenko, whose self-assurance translated to an aggressive style of play punctuated by booming groundstrokes. She doesn’t always find equals to her power, but in comparison to the reigning French Open champion, she actually seemed the more reserved. Which is not to say overmatched, because she knew well enough to lean on her experience to construct points off meaningful rallies. Whereas she would normally go for quick winners against measured competition, she stayed patient against her opponent, striking just when the risk-reward ratio appeared favorable.

For Williams, the victory both exemplifies an already-solid 2017 and signifies what’s still in store. In prevailing against a major winner 17 summers her junior, she has defied expectations and, at the same time, fueled prospects of another Grand Slam final appearance. And once there, who knows? In the absence of sister Serena, who felled her in the battle for the Australian Open crown earlier this year, anything’s possible.

First things first, though, and Williams is banking on momentum to take the measure of hometown hope Johanna Konta in the semifinal round. And, yes, she figures to once again make her serve her primary weapon; as she noted, “It’s working out for me just in time, just for these later rounds. I’d like to think that I can continue to rely on it as the matches continue,” she noted. In any case, this much is clear: She won’t be leaving anything in the tank. “I try really hard,” she said in reference to the obvious. “You do your best while you can. That’s what I’m doing.”

Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.

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