WIMBLEDON (CNN) — If these are arguably the worst of times personally for Venus Williams, the US tennis star’s professional career is enjoying a late blooming.
Williams has talked about feeling “devastated” after her involvement in a car accident that led to the death of a 78-year-old man last month.
But at Wimbledon, Williams goes from strength to strength as she eased into a 10th semifinal at the All England Club.
Her serve and athleticism were there for all to see Tuesday as she beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-5 under the Centre Court roof in her 100th Wimbledon encounter to end the feisty French Open champion’s 11-match winning streak at grand slams.
Williams has now reached two grand slam semifinals in a season for the first time since 2007, having finished runner-up to younger sister Serena — who is pregnant and due to give birth next month — at the Australian Open in January.
Williams’ press conference following her first-round win had to be stopped temporarily when she wept fielding questions about the car accident in Florida.
The police report said the 37-year-old was “at fault for violating the right of way” of the second and other vehicle and the victims’ family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her.
However, recent new video evidence shows that Williams “lawfully” entered a Florida intersection seconds before a fatal crash involving her SUV, police said
It’s against that backdrop that Williams finds herself just two wins from claiming an eighth grand slam title and first since collecting her fifth Wimbledon crown nine years ago. This is her 20th visit to the grass at SW19.
Standing in her way in Thursday’s semifinal is either Simona Halep — on the receiving end of Ostapenko’s punishing ground-stroke barrage in the French Open final — or home hope Johanna Konta.
New women’s No. 1
If Halep prevails, she is guaranteed of the No. 1 ranking when the new rankings are released Monday. A loss and Karolina Pliskova is the one who takes over from Angelique Kerber.
Garbine Muguruza — defeated in the 2015 Wimbledon final by Serena — joined Venus in the semis with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over twice grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova on Court 1.
Muguruza struggled with the pressure last month of having to defend her 2016 French Open title but with Roland Garros a thing of the past, now appears more free on court.
The Spaniard dispatched Kerber in a high-quality tussle Monday with fill-in coach and 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez looking on.
In a men’s quarterfinal that didn’t start as planned Monday due to darkness, Novak Djokovic began proceedings on Centre Court by advancing in straight sets against unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-2 7-6 (5) 6-4.
That, too, was under the roof as the rain surfaced in London following a week of mostly dry, hot conditions.
But be it because of an apparent shoulder injury that necessitated a medical timeout, the scheduling, condition of the court or crowd backing his opponent, the three-time winner didn’t appear entirely pleased Tuesday.
He now faces a quick turnaround, meeting 2011 finalist Tomas Berdych on Wednesday.
Djokovic wasn’t asked about his shoulder or the crowd but did take a swipe at organizers for not putting him on court Monday.
He was originally scheduled to feature last on Court 1 but was pushed back when Gilles Muller and Rafael Nadal spent five hours battling on court.
Meanwhile, play on Centre Court ended about 7 p.m. local time so Djokovic and Mannarino could have been moved to the main showcourt, which has the roof and lights.
“I think it was a wrong decision not to play us last night, because we could have played,” Djokovic told reporters
“We went to the referee’s office before 8 p.m. There was security reasons. That was the only excuse, that basically there were explanations that we were getting.
“I just didn’t see any logic in not playing us on the Centre Court.”
Early break for Williams
Williams and Ostapenko on Centre was certainly logical.
In their first meeting, Williams set the tone against Ostapenko by breaking the Latvian in her first service game. Aided by that big serve, the lone break was enough to see Williams win the first.
Ostapenko can make unforced errors but this wasn’t an erratic performance, evidenced by her final tally of 20 winners and 18 unforced errors.
Williams repeatedly, however, redirected her fierce drives into corners to force errors. Williams struck eight aces, perhaps none more important than when she trailed 4-5, 15-30 in the second set.
Ostapenko — born 15 days before Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997 — clawed back a break deficit earlier in the second set but couldn’t recover from not breaking in the pivotal 10th game.
Williams duly broke for 6-5 and had no issues serving out the affair to record an 86th win at Wimbledon — the same as Serena.
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