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Venus, Federer back in the thick of a Grand Slam

MELBOURNE: For all their Grand Slam successes, Venus Williams and Roger Federer still find themselves surprised to be in the semi-finals at the Australian Open.

Injuries, illness and advancing age can do that to the best of athletes, even 17-time major champion Federer and seven-time Grand Slam singles winner Venus, who has overcome an energy-sapping illness and is playing some of her best tennis since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011.

“I have a lot to give, I have a lot to give to the game. I feel like I have a lot of great tennis in me,” Venus said when asked why she didn’t retire when diagnosed with the illness that also causes joint pain.

“So anytime you feel that way, you continue. It’s just the excitement of having the opportunity to compete at my best level.”

The 36-year-old Venus beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) on Tuesday, becoming the oldest player to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in the Open era.

She’ll next play CoCo Vandeweghe, an American who beat French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-0 in Tuesday’s other quarter-final match.

It was a long time coming for Venus, who reached her 21st Grand Slam semi-final but her first at the Australian Open in 14 years.

The 35-year-old Federer, meanwhile, is back from a six-month injury layoff due to left knee surgery. On Tuesday, he had a 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win over Mischa Zverev, the player who eliminated top-seeded Andy Murray from the tournament two nights earlier.

He becomes the tournament’s oldest semi-finalist since Arthur Ashe in 1978, and the oldest at any Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors reached the 1991 US Open last four aged 39.

Federer’s semi-final opponent will be Stan Wawrinka, who had his major breakthrough in Australia in 2014. Wawrinka beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 6-3.

“In the semis I play Roger. It’s going to be tough to have some fans but I hope some people will cheer for me,” said Wawrinka, 31.

Federer won the first five games in 12 minutes, setting up a straightforward win to reach his 41st Grand Slam semi-final and his 13th at Melbourne Park.

Only he didn’t expect to be anywhere near the semi-finals.

“Winning back-to-back matches in best-of-five sets against quality, great players, that’s been for me the big question mark, if I could do that so early in my comeback,” Federer said.

“I felt I was always going to be dangerous on any given day in a match situation. But obviously as the tournament would progress, maybe I would fade away with energy. I think now that I’m in the semis, feeling as good as I am, playing as good as I am, that’s a huge surprise to me.”
STAN Wawrinka of Switzerland makes a forehand return to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga during their quarter-final at the Australian Open on Tuesday.—AP

Another tournament surprise has been the No 35-ranked Vandeweghe. She beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian and US Open titles last year, in the fourth round. Vandeweghe followed it up with an upset win over Muguruza.

Vandeweghe saved the only break point she faced in the first set with an ace, and only conceded 10 points in the 28-minute second set.

“Once I got rolling in the second, it was like a freight train,” she said. “You couldn’t stop it.”

Muguruza admitted she had been taken by surprise by Vandeweghe, despite her earlier wins over Kerber and Eugenie Bouchard.

“I was surprised. I think she played unbelievable. Three times we played in the past, she didn’t show this level,” Muguruza said. “She played very good. Her serve, her shots were there. She barely missed. “

Venus has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, and isn’t ready to stop in the semi-finals in the latest installment of her career revival.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Venus, who hadn’t reached the semi-finals in Australia since 2003, the year she lost the final to sister Serena. “I want to go further.”

Venus didn’t reach the quarter-finals at any of the Grand Slams from 2011 until the 2015 Australian Open. She lost in the first round in Melbourne last year.

With her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, Venus became the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova (at 37 years, 258 days) in 1994 to advance so far at a major and moved towards a possible ninth Grand Slam final against Serena, 16 years after their first.

“Why shouldn’t I?” she said when asked if she could win her first major title since 2008. “I try to believe. Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more?

“This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is, ‘I deserve this’.”

courtesy : dawn news



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