LONDON, (Reuters) – Venus Williams became the oldest woman in 23 years to reach a Wimbledon final as she defied her age and a despondent home crowd to inflict a crushing defeat on British hope Johanna Konta on Thursday.
Eight years after her last Wimbledon final and more than two decades since Martina Navratilova became the last 37-year-old to reach the same stage, Williams produced the sort of attacking performance that led her to five titles in her heyday.
Her 6-4 6-2 semi-final win over the Briton was a clinical execution and set up a Saturday showdown with Garbine Muguruza, whose own ruthless demolition of Magdalena Rybarikova whetted the appetite for an intriguing final.
It will be Williams’s ninth at Wimbledon and the stage for a potential eighth grand slam crown and having defied the odds to reach this point, few would now bet against her.
Konta was looking to become the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon final since Virginia Wade in 1977, but her hopes were crushed as Williams picked her off at crucial points.
The American, who has dropped only one set all tournament, was too strong for her opponent from the baseline and was able to produce booming serves whenever Konta threatened.
After initially going toe-to-toe with Williams, Konta was unable to generate any sort of sustained pressure and ended the contest a clear second best, losing eight of the final 10 games.
She saved two match points before Williams finally ended her resistance with a devilish forehand that flew past the Briton and left the American to twirl in celebration on Centre Court. “You can play this game for a while if you love it, you put in the work and stay healthy,” Williams, who was beaten by her sister Serena in January’s Australian Open final, told reporters.
“I’ve played some good tennis in different points of my life. I think it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to play well and to be strong and have experience. Experience can either work against you or for you. I like to think it’s working for me.”
Konta’s one chance to upset Williams came in the ninth game of the first set when the Briton crafted two break points.
It proved only a fleeting window of opportunity, however, as Williams saved the first with a backhand winner and launched a 106mph second serve to snuff out the second.
That was as good as it got for Konta, who was immediately broken in the next game to cede the opening set and then twice more in the second as Williams wrapped up victory over her sixth-seeded opponent in an hour and 13 minutes.
“She dictated the match from the very first ball till the very last one,” Konta said. “I think she just showed her true qualities and why she’s a five-time champion here, just a true champion that she is.”