Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Ah, the age old battle of youth against experience. Who will win? When the experienced one is Venus Williams, the seven-time Grand Slam winner, it is experience every time.
She beat Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-2 to reach her 13th quarter-final in SW19 and she made it look so easy. Her customary victory pirouette looked more complicated than closing out the match.
Now, this bit could be a little tricky because here at Wimbledon.com, we have certain standards. Because of this, we adhere to the principle that no matter what the situation, there is no excuse for bad manners.
And we all know that it is frightfully bad manners to discuss a lady’s age. And there’s the rub: Konjuh was the youngest player left in the draw (she will be 19 years and 201 days old by the end of The Championships). That bit was easy. But Venus… well, Venus isn’t.
Lean a little closer to the screen because we are going to say this very quietly: Venus is 37. I think we got away with that; I don’t think anyone heard.
But it means that Konjuh was not even born when Venus reached the US Open final in her debut season in 1997 and she was only two-and-a-half when Venus won her first Wimbledon title. Even scarier still, she was only ten-and-a-half when Venus won the last of her five titles here.
The delicate term for Venus is ‘mature’ (‘veteran’ seems too harsh). But that does not begin to describe the phenomenon that is the world No.11.
When players are referred to as ‘mature’, it tends to be a polite term for someone one, small step away from retirement, carpet slippers and a cup of cocoa. But that is not how things work in the Williams household.
Her baby sister, Serena, she of the 23 Grand Slam titles, is 35 and no matter that she is expecting her first child later this year, she has every intention of coming back next year to hoover up a few more major titles before she calls it quits. Age to both sisters is just a number.
Venus began the year by reaching the Australian Open title decider. It was her first Grand Slam final appearance since 2009 when she lost to Serena on Centre Court.
In Melbourne, Serena did for her again but Venus did not seem to mind. She genuinely believes that such finals are win-win affairs: if Venus wins, she is happy; if Serena wins, Venus is still happy because the family has won.
This year at Wimbledon, though, Venus is going it alone. While Serena sits at home, putting her feet up (anything to avoid the dreaded swollen ankles), it is up to Venus to fly the family flag – and that she has been doing in fine style from day one.
The second round against Qiang Wang was a little awkward but other than that, she has looked impressive. She has not flattened anyone in double-quick time with a bevy of aces but she has gone about her business quietly and efficiently.
It was just the same against Konjuh: Venus started purposefully but not flashily, she watched and she waited and then she pounced. She broke for 5-3 and then did not so much serve out for the set as set off a four-gun salute. She had only dropped three points on her own serve, she was a set to the good and the match was just 28 minutes old.
Konjuh was trying her best, going forehand to forehand with her more heralded foe, but it was barely knocking the dust off Venus’s defences. She was hitting the ball hard enough but it was where she was hitting it that was the problem. She couldn’t find a way to hurt the former champion and she did not know how to make her work.
Venus was all over the Croat’s serve (she does not just prepare to receive serve; she lies in wait for it like a praying mantis) and she was clobbering her groundstrokes as if she had a personal grudge against the ball. This was all too much for Konjuh and after three games of the second set, she was already a break down.
But then the unthinkable happened: Konjuh found herself with a break point. She had waited 46 minutes for her chance and now this was her moment. And this was also the moment that Venus reloaded her cannon and launched a couple of service winners at 118mph and 113mph.
Konjuh held firm; she had another break point. This time Venus improvised and when the ball was sent skittling towards her shoelaces, she dug it out with a cricket shot.
That took the Croat by surprise, her chance had gone and a few minutes later, Venus was into the quarter-finals to face Jelena Ostapenko.