Wimbledon 2017: Women’s final preview

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    And then there were two. Venus Williams will bid for her sixth Wimbledon title and eighth major overall when she comes up against Garbine Muguruza in the ladies’ final of Wimbledon.

    In the absence of her pregnant sister, seven-time champion Serena, Venus was left to uphold the family name at the All England Club this year. And as one of only two former champions in the draw, expectations were high.

    Her chances of Wimbledon glory multiplied when the only other former champion, Petra Kvitova, crashed out in the second round.

    Indeed, the American has performed well as she bids to break a nine-year Grand Slam title drought, having not saluted since she defeated her younger sister to win this very tournament in 2008.

    Since then, the 37-year-old has battled injuries, poor form and illness, all of which threatened to bring her retirement forward.

    However, in recent years Williams has defied the odds to return to the elite of women’s tennis, reaching the final of the Australian Open earlier this year where she lost to Serena.

    A return to the All England Club, where she won five of her seven major titles (the other two were at the US Open in 2000 and 2001), has inspired her to rediscover the form that saw her dominate women’s tennis in the early 2000s.

    She has won five of her six matches without dropping a set, the only blot coming when she had to come from a set down to defeat Wang Qiang in the second round.

    At one point the American contested three consecutive matches against opponents who were born in the year she debuted at the All England Club: Naomi Osaka, Ana Konjuh and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

    She was ruthless against all three of them, winning in straight sets before ending any hope Johanna Konta had of becoming the first homegrown champion in 40 years in the semi-finals, also winning in straight sets.

    Venus Williams of the United States acknowledges the crowd

    (Kyodo)

    Standing in the way of Williams and a drought-breaking eighth Grand Slam title is former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

    The Spaniard has struggled for consistency since saluting at Roland Garros last year, and the Wimbledon final will be her first final at any level since that glorious day in Paris.

    However, the 23-year-old has rediscovered her best form at the best possible time, also winning five of her six matches in straight sets and coming from a set down to defeat Angelique Kerber in a marathon fourth round clash.

    Muguruza was absolutely ruthless in her Wimbledon semi-final, defeating Magdalena Rybarikova for the loss of just two games. That will surely have Venus on high alert, and rightly so, given Serena did lose to Muguruza in the final at Roland Garros last year.

    Now, the Spaniard has a chance to win her second Grand Slam title, and if she beats Williams in the final, she’ll create some tennis history of her own.

    No player has ever defeated both Serena and Venus Williams in a Grand Slam final, but Muguruza can take heart from the fact she did win her most recent meeting against Venus, in the quarter-finals in Rome in May.

    However, that was on clay, and facing the American on grass, a surface she dominated in the noughties, will be a different proposition altogether.

    All is set for what should be an intriguing match-up. Here is everything you need to know entering the third Grand Slam ladies’ singles final of the year.

    [14] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) versus [10] Venus Williams (USA)
    Saturday, July 15
    2:00pm local time (11:00pm AEST)
    Centre Court

    Head-to-head
    All matches: Williams 3-1
    In finals: Williams 1-0
    At Grand Slams: First meeting

    Last meeting: Muguruza won 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, quarter-finals, 2017 Rome Masters.

    Garbine Muguruza’s road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2, 6-4
    Round 2: defeated Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 6-2, 6-4
    Round 3: defeated Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 6-2, 6-2
    Round 4: defeated [1] Angelique Kerber (GER) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
    Quarter-finals: defeated [7] Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) 6-3, 6-4
    Semi-finals: defeated [PR] Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 6-1, 6-1

    Venus Williams’ road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-6 (9-7), 6-4
    Round 2: defeated Wang Qiang (CHN) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
    Round 3: defeated Naomi Osaka (JPN) 7-6 (7-3), 6-4
    Round 4: defeated [27] Ana Konjuh (CRO) 6-3, 6-2
    Quarter-finals: defeated [13] Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-3, 7-5
    Semi-finals: defeated [6] Johanna Konta (GBR) 6-4, 6-2

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