One sad thing about excellence is that it’s easily eclipsed by outright transcendence: Seven majors is a clump next to a historic heap of 23; 92-18 on grass is wild, but 95-12 is even better; five Wimbledons is fewer than seven. But Serena Williams’s pregnancy left a vacuum at the top of the women’s tour, and her older sister Venus is currently flourishing in it. The No. 10 seed has dropped just one set thus far at her favorite tournament, and today’s 6-4, 7-5 quarterfinal win over No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko brings the 37-year-old within two matches of claiming a title she hasn’t touched since 2008.
Venus is no stranger to the second week in London. This marks her 10th semifinal, and she was there as recently as last year. Wimbledon accounts for the bulk of her major title haul, which makes plenty of sense given her strengths. On the lawn she thrives with a brutal flat serve (her 129-mph effort is the second-fastest the women’s game has ever seen), a neat slice, long-legged strides that eat up the court’s surface, and a wingspan to knock anything out of the air.
All of this was tested by the artillery of Ostapenko, a 20-year-old still running hot from her French Open win, which was her first WTA title of any kind, making her the first unseeded champion there since 1933. The Latvian blindsided the tour in Paris and brings a refreshing aggression to the court. In tennis, the most useful shorthand for risk appetite is the tally of winners—shots that the opponent can’t even graze with a racket, well-placed daggers that leave play completely untouched. Ostapenko racks them up, and her 20 winners today, though still impressive and still greater than Williams’s 13, looked practically conservative compared to her 41 winners and 38 unforced errors in the last round. Should she continue to grow into her attacking style, she’ll remain a Wimbledon threat for the next decade.
Williams will face either No. 2 seed Simona Halep or No. 6 seed Johanna Konta in the semifinal.