Williams has talked about feeling “devastated” after her involvement in a car accident that led to the death of a 78-year-old man last month.
But at Wimbledon, Williams continues to thrive as she eased into a 10th semifinal at the All England Club.
Her serve and athleticism were there for all to see Tuesday as she beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-5 under the Centre Court roof in her 100th Wimbledon encounter to end the feisty French Open champion’s 11-match winning streak at grand slams.
Williams has now reached two grand slam semifinals in a season for the first time since 2007, having finished runner-up to younger sister Serena — who is pregnant and due to give birth next month — at the Australian Open in January.
“I love this game,” Williams told reporters. “That’s why I put in the effort and the time. It’s a beautiful game. It’s been so good to me.”
Williams’ press conference following her first-round win had to be stopped temporarily when she wept fielding questions about the car accident.
The police report said the 37-year-old was “at fault for violating the right of way” of the second and other vehicle and the victims’ family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her.
It’s against that backdrop that Williams finds herself just two wins from claiming an eighth grand slam title and first since collecting her fifth Wimbledon crown nine years ago. This is remarkably her 20th visit to the grass at SW19.
Standing in her way Thursday is home hope Johanna Konta, who became the first British woman to land in the semifinals at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade in 1978 when she outlasted French Open finalist Simona Halep 6-7 (2) 7-6 (5) 6-4 in two hours, 40 minutes.
New women’s No. 1
Halep would have become the new No. 1 in the rankings Monday with a win but instead last year’s US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova will replace Angelique Kerber at top spot. Just like when they faced off in Miami in March, Halep couldn’t put away Konta when leading by a set and holding two serves at 5-4 in the second-set tiebreak.
In another absorbing women’s contest this fortnight, Konta and Halep truly dazzled. The Romanian second seed lost despite compiling 26 winners and only nine unforced errors. Konta, seeded sixth and armed with a potent serve, hit 48 winners.
Garbine Muguruza — defeated in the 2015 Wimbledon final by Serena — joined Venus in the semis with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over twice grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova on Court 1.
Muguruza struggled with the pressure last month of having to defend her 2016 French Open title but with Roland Garros a thing of the past, now appears more free on court.
The Spaniard dispatched Kerber in a high-quality tussle Monday with fill-in coach and 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez looking on. Her foe Thursday is the unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova, who beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3 6-3 in a match that began on Court 1 but ended indoors on Centre Court due to the rain.
Rybarikova — whose ranking slipped to 453rd this year following wrist and knee injuries — knocked out Pliskova in the second round.
In a men’s quarterfinal that didn’t start as planned Monday due to darkness, Novak Djokovic began proceedings on Centre Court by advancing in straight sets against unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-2 7-6 (5) 6-4.
That, too, was under the roof as the rain surfaced in London following a week of mostly dry, hot conditions.
But be it because of an apparent shoulder injury that necessitated a medical timeout, the scheduling, condition of the court or crowd backing his opponent, the three-time winner didn’t appear entirely pleased Tuesday.
He now faces a quick turnaround, meeting 2011 finalist Tomas Berdych on Wednesday.
Djokovic wasn’t asked about his shoulder or the crowd but did take a swipe at organizers for not putting him on court Monday.
He was originally scheduled to feature last on Court 1 but was pushed back when Gilles Muller and Rafael Nadal spent five hours battling on court.
Meanwhile, play on Centre Court ended about 7 p.m. local time so Djokovic and Mannarino could have been moved to the main showcourt, which has the roof and lights.
“I think it was a wrong decision not to play us last night, because we could have played,” Djokovic told reporters
“We went to the referee’s office before 8 p.m. There was security reasons. That was the only excuse, that basically there were explanations that we were getting.
“I just didn’t see any logic in not playing us on the Centre Court.”
Early break for Williams
Williams and Ostapenko on Centre was certainly logical.
In their first meeting, Williams set the tone against Ostapenko by breaking the Latvian in her first service game. Aided by that big serve, the lone break was enough to see Williams win the first.
Ostapenko can make unforced errors but this wasn’t an erratic performance, evidenced by her final tally of 20 winners and 18 unforced errors.
“She was playing good today, was serving well,” Ostapenko, making her Centre Court debut, said. “I think I didn’t start the match very well. I was missing a little bit. But, yeah, she was serving really well.
“It was very tough to break. Because of that I had more pressure because I had to keep my serve.”
Williams repeatedly redirected Ostapenko’s fierce drives into corners to force errors. She delivered eight aces, perhaps none more important than when she trailed 4-5, 15-30 in the second set.
“Been working on that serve,” she said. “It’s working out for me just in time, just for these later rounds. I’d like to think that I can continue to rely on that as the matches continue.”
Ostapenko — born 15 days before Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1997 — clawed back a break deficit earlier in the second set but couldn’t recover from not breaking in the pivotal 10th game.
Williams duly broke for 6-5 and had no issues serving out the affair to record an 86th win at Wimbledon — the same as Serena.