Venus Williams failed to capture her old consistent power as she lost comfortably to her sister and No 1 seed Serena in a match lacking in drama on Wimbledon’s centre court.
The elder of the sisters, who has risen back to No 16 in the world, was described by Serena as the favourite heading into their first Grand Slam match since the Wimbledon 2009 final. But Venus showed only fleeting evidence of the power hitting which contributed to their titanic clashes of that period. Two double faults at critical moments in the game’s closing stages were a symbol of her struggle. One gave 33-year-old Serena the decisive second set break. The second handed her three match points.
Hopes of a dramatic clash between the two were borne of Venus’ palpable recovery since the dark days of 2011 when she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrime, a condition affecting the body’s moisture-producing glans which has left her short of energy and with joint pain. She had impressed at this Wimbledon, not losing a set on her way to a shot at a quarter final place. But she was immediately broken to love and did not register a point – to cheers around Centre Court – until the third game.
There were fleeting glimpses of the force she once offered, which saw her beat Serena in the 2008 final to record her fifth Wimbledon triumph, in what was her last victory in a Grand Slam match between the two of them. A searing forehand pass to her sister’s backhand side in the fourth game – which saw her break back – was the first. But the younger sister regained the break advantage immediately, in the fifth game, and did not look back in the first set, which she had wrapped up in 33 minutes.
The lack of a contest is always amplified by the relative meekness of these two players on a court when they face each other. There was none of the visceral determination and will-to-win Serena had displayed against Britain’s Heather Watson on this court on Friday evening. The two did not walk out side by side. Serena led the way. But each just stared implacable into the stands when an opportunity was missed.
The second set went with serve, with Venus’ displaying no hint of joy when her touch saved the second of two break points with a drop shot in the second game. The fateful double fault – the older sister’s fourth of the match - and decisive ensuing break came at 4-3. A failure to cause a consistent challenge with her serve did not help. Venus. Serena, by contrast, served no double faults, to win 6-4, 6-3.
“We’ve played a lot of years and we’ve tried to be entertaining,” Venus said. “At some point we won’t be playing forever, but clearly we’re still playing at a high level. When that moment’s over it will be over. But it’s not now.” That seemed to be an exaggeration of what she had offered.Reuse content