Venus Williams defeated world No. 1 Angelique Kerber in straight sets last night to advance to the semifinals of the Miami Open. By downing Kerber, the 36-year-old became the oldest player to defeat a world No. 1, but she has no desire to rest on that accomplishment.
“I would like to be No. 1,” Williams said earlier this week. “Nobody is out there saying, ‘Cool, No. 11.’”
Williams is playing some of the most aggressive tennis on tour right now and has yet to drop a set in Miami, dispatching world No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, Romanian qualifier Patricia Maria Tig, and Brazilian youngster Beatriz Haddad Maia en route to her quarterfinal against Kerber.
As she’s been doing all tournament, Williams absolutely crushed her groundstrokes Wednesday, zinging 32 winners from all over the court. She went for the lines—and mostly hit them—on fiery forehand winners like this one, which came at deuce, 3-3 in the opening set:
She also didn’t hesitate to charge forward, following up punishing approach shots with a feathery touch at the net. Williams won 21 of 32 net points compared to Kerber’s 4 of 6. At 3-2 in the opening set, with Kerber serving to consolidate the break, Venus came up with this beauty to knot it at deuce, before proceeding to break back.
Williams’s strikingly low first-serve conversion rate of 45 percent wasn’t impressive, but that she managed to keep the pressure on Kerber despite of that is a testament to her go-big mentality. Thanks to her deep hitting and bold shot selection, Williams didn’t get trapped in too many long rallies with Kerber—who is an effective counter-puncher—and won a redemptive 57 percent of her second-serve points, according to tournament statistics.
After Kerber served back-to-back double faults to lose the first set, she broke serve to start the second. That’s when Williams hit her groove, at one point winning 11 points in a row and claiming a commanding 4-1 lead. Kerber got a few games back, and then, at 5-3, saved four match points before Williams closed it out.
“It wasn’t my best game, but she deserved to win because she played really well tonight,” Kerber said. “She was really aggressive from the beginning, and was hitting the balls really hard.” Indeed:
It has been 16 years since Venus Williams has won the Miami Open, an event once nicknamed the Williams Open because of Venus and Serena’s dominance. (She joked earlier this week that the last time she won she was still wearing braces.) She’ll now face semifinal opponent and world No. 10 Johanna Konta, whom she lost to twice last year. If Williams continues to hit the ball like this, however, it won’t matter who she’s playing.