Venus Williams may be headed for the twilight of her career, but don’t tell her. The five-time Wimbledon champion is 36 years old, and she is beating opponents who were babies when she first took home the All England Club trophy.
Williams, who is playing in her 71st major tournament, is the oldest player seeded in the top eight of a grand slam since Martina Navratilova in the 1994 Wimbledon. What is truly remarkable is that Williams is staging her comeback five years after her diagnosis with Sjögren’s syndrome which put her future in tennis under a cloud. The autoimmune disease is incurable and attacks suffers with unpredictable symptoms.
And her return to Wimbledon has not been without controversy. This week schedulers put William on Court No. 18 for her Thursday match against Maria Sakkari. Spectators lined up four-deep in a crowd that numbered twice the official seating capacity of 782. The match could have been Williams’ last, but she won by beating back Sakkari’s challenge in an entertaining second-round face-off. Sakkari was not born when Williams turned professional. When Williams won the first of her five Wimbledon singles titles, Sakkari was four.
The banishment to Court No. 18, which seemed an invitation to arouse the many fans of Williams, seemed odd for a tournament steeped in tradition. After winning a late-afternoon doubles match, Williams addressed the issue. She said she did not mind playing anywhere. “It didn’t matter how many titles I had won or what my ranking was at that time. It didn’t make a difference whether I played on an outside court or a center court,” Williams said.
Fans will continue to keep a close watch to see how far Williams will progress at Wimbledon. The story continues for the long-time champion of gender equality who has been in the forefront of the fight for equal prize money at Wimbledon.
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