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My sister Serena with me in spirit, maintains Venus

 

By Eleanor Crooks

Venus Williams can feel sister Serena fighting alongside her as she tries to keep the Wimbledon title in the family.

The sisters have won seven of the last 10 titles between them at the All England Club, with Serena claiming five and Venus two.

But Serena was unable to compete for her third success in a row as she awaits the birth of her first child back home in Florida.

Also absent is the sisters' father Richard, whose dream it was to see them winning Grand Slams.

"They're definitely here with me," said Venus after a 6-3 7-5 win over French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals. "Even if it's not physically. That is one thing I do know. They're fighting right alongside me."

Ostapenko was only a few weeks old when Williams, the oldest semi-finalist since Martina Navratilova in 1994, made her Wimbledon debut 20 years ago.

The 37-year-old, who now faces British star Johanna Konta in tomorrow's semi-final, has not won a Grand Slam crown since lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish for the fifth time nine years ago.

But she has been getting closer, reaching the semi-finals here 12 months ago and then losing to sister Serena in the final of the Australian Open in January.

Should she win the title on Saturday, Venus would overtake her sister as the oldest female Grand Slam singles champion in the open era.

"I love it," she said. "I try really hard. There's no other explanation. You do your best while you can. That's what I'm doing.

"I love the challenge. I love pressure. It's not always easy dealing with the pressure. It's only yourself who can have the answer for that.

"I love the last day you play, you're still improving. It's not something that is stagnant. You have to get better if you want to stay relevant."

Ostapenko was the junior champion here only three years ago and would certainly have been more fancied to make her Slam breakthrough on grass than clay until her stunning triumph at Roland Garros.

Backing up that sort of out-from-nowhere triumph is difficult, but the fearlessness of youth has served Ostapenko well and appears to have paid little attention to the expectation.

Williams won the first three games and held onto her advantage to claim the opening set before moving 3-1 ahead in the second. Back came Ostapenko, but the Latvian could not find the right balance of winners and errors, and Williams won the final three games.

"I know she had to be feeling confident," said Williams. "She played a great match, not a lot of errors. I was really happy to come out on top."

Ostapenko praised her opponent and admitted she found the Williams serve hard to deal with.

"She was playing well," said the Latvian. "She was serving well. I didn't start the match very well. I was missing a little bit.

"Because of that, I had more pressure because I had to keep my serve. I was not playing bad, but I was just not playing the way I wanted to play. I wasn't serving so well. But I hope we'll play more matches and I can perform better."

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