Venus Williams “Vamos Venus”

Venus Williams

Defending women’s champion Venus Williams is to play Alisa Kleybanova, and Serena Williams faces unseeded Bethanie Mattek, the only other remaining American. Those matches are back to back on Court 2—the “Graveyard of Champions”—but the sisters will nonetheless be heavily favored, as usual at Wimbledon, where they’ve won six of the past eight titles.

Venus and Serena have settled into a groove on grass after enduring third-round upsets at the French Open—only the second time both lost on the same day at a major event. Serena cleared Wimbledon’s third-round hurdle Friday, and Venus was in a hurry to follow.

Her opponent was a Spanish left-hander with a lifetime record of 4-7 in Grand Slam matches. Predictably, Martinez Sanchez had no chance in baseline rallies, and the first set was a tennis clinic of sorts, with Williams whacking winners all over the court.

Her serve was especially impressive—she finished with 11 aces and won 33 of 38 points on her first serve. Even Martinez Sanchez’s supporters could appreciate the overpowering performance.

“Vamos, Venus,” someone shouted.

But in the second set Martinez Sanchez changed strategy and began to play serve and volley. It was a curious tactic to counter Williams’ booming groundstrokes, like diving into the barrel of a howitzer, but for a while it worked.

Martinez Sanchez won three games in a row for a 5-4 lead. Then Williams began to treat her like slow traffic on the British motorway, passing her on the left, then on the right, then on the left again.

“I was pretty happy, because she started putting some pressure on, and I had some good answers,” Williams said.

Williams won 12 of the final 14 points, the last with the record serve. At 127 mph, it topped the previous Wimbledon high of 126 achieved by both Venus and Serena. Venus holds the women’s tour record with a 129 mph serve at last year’s U.S. Open.

“The power that I have … it’s a real blessing,” she said. “I’m actually never really trying to serve that hard, if that makes any sense. It just comes big. It’s just how I serve. It’s just me.”

Williams celebrated the victory with her customary pirouette and wave, and as she left the stadium, she spotted a friend in the stands. She put her thumb to her ear and her little finger to her lips and mouthed the words “Call me.”

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