WIMBLEDON, England — Time has no chance against Venus Williams. In this 20th Wimbledon of her brilliant and seemingly timeless career, the same could be said of her opponents.
Williams, 37, became the oldest women’s finalist of the All-England Championships in two decades Thursday when she defeated Johanna Konta, 6-4, 6-2, in their semifinal.
Six years after announcing she had been stricken with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome and it was presumed that Williams’ career was all but done, she’s one victory away from a sixth Wimbledon championship — and keeping the title in the Williams family.
Younger sister Serena was the 2016 champion but didn’t enter this year because she is pregnant.
“I miss her so much,” Venus said. “I try to take the same courage on the court that she would have.”
Courage she has. Along with experience, which Konta, trying to become the first Englishwoman to make the finals since 1977, identified as a factor.
“She dictated the match from the very first ball,” Konta said. “Experience? This was my second Grand Slam semifinal. This was her 202nd, I bet.”
Not quite, but on Saturday, Williams will be in her ninth Wimbledon final, facing Garbine Muguruza, who crushed Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1, 6-1, in the other semifinal. Williams has won five of her previous eight Wimbledon finals. All three losses were to Serena.
Venus played her first Wimbledon in 1997 and won her first Wimbledon title in 2000, a long time ago in sports. Yet the other day when questioned about her age, she blithely said, “I don’t know. I don’t think about it.”
Others do, certainly. Williams and Roger Federer, who is almost 36 and will play in one of the men’s semifinals Friday, seemingly are from another generation. In the three rounds before the semis, Venus met women born in the year of her first Wimbledon.
“I think I’ve played some good tennis in different points in my life,” Williams said. “I think it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to play well and to be strong and have experience. So I think experience can either work against you or for you. I like to think it’s working for me.
“But obviously you can play this game for a while if you love it, you put in the work and stay healthy.”
And have a serve that even after all these years is one of the fastest and most accurate in women’s tennis, a serve that has helped her win seven Slams in all, a serve that when there was a brief moment of trouble against the 26-year-old Konta enabled Williams to escape.
At four games apiece in the first set, Williams fell behind 15-40. At 30-40, she missed her first serve, and it looked as if Konta might break. Wham. Williams ripped a 106-mph second serve to get to deuce, won the game and, as the partisan crowd at Centre Centre gasped, immediately broke Konta to take the set.
“I don’t necessarily think it was the be-all, end-all,” Konta insisted, “but it definitely took my break-point chance away. Her being able to do that is why she is a five-time champion here, and why she’s the champion that she is.”
Venus is more measured than Serena, more under control emotionally. At match point, she did jump slightly and raise both arms in triumph, but that was the limit to any celebration.
“I feel very focused,” Williams said. “There’s still a lot to be done. I have one more match that I’d like to be the winner of. I have to go out there and take it and play well.”
You might say time is on her side.
Venus Williams’ Grand Slam finals results:
Won 7, Lost 8
1997 U.S. Open — Lost to Martina Hingis, 6-0, 6-4
2000 Wimbledon — Def. Lindsay Davenport, 6-3, 7-6 (3)
2000 U.S. Open — Def. Lindsay Davenport, 6-4, 7-5
2001 Wimbledon — Def. Justine Henin, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0
2001 U.S. Open — Def. Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4
2002 French Open — Lost to Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-3
2002 Wimbledon — Lost to Serena Williams, 7-6 (4), 6-3
2002 U.S. Open — Lost to Serena Williams, 6-4, 6-3
2003 Australian Open — Lost to Serena Williams, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4
2003 Wimbledon — Lost to Serena Williams, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
2005 Wimbledon — Def. Lindsay Davenport, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7
2007 Wimbledon — Def. Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-1
2008 Wimbledon — Def. Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-4
2009 Wimbledon — Lost to Serena Williams, 7-6 (3), 6-2
2017 Australian Open — Lost to Serena Williams, 6-4, 6-4