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Legend continues

As expected, Venus Williams exited to vigorous applause at Centre Court yesterday. She hadn’t won a title at Wimbledon since 2008, hadn’t played a match in the second week of the sport’s premier event in six years, hadn’t actually emerged triumphant against first-round opponent Elina Svitolina — and yet the close to 15,000 on hand still saw fit to give her a standing ovation. Her mere presence, even as a wild card entry, was all the fans needed to shower her with love and affection. For a long time now, she has not had anything left to prove. And for a long time now, she has kept putting in the work — and, yes, dedication — required to compete.

Indeed, Williams is an old 43, with brittle bones and an autoimmune syndrome that drains energy from her body. Nonetheless, the fire that enabled her to claim seven major championships, including five at the All England Club, remains. Yesterday was no exception. Never mind that she suffered yet another injury at the start of the year. Forget that Svitolina, at 76th, was a semifinalist just four years ago and currently 482 spots above her in world rankings. As far as she was concerned, the set-to was there for the taking.

For a while there, it appeared as if Williams had the fight to at least take Svitolina to the limit. She prevailed in the first two games of the contest and looked forward to pressing the momentum. Unfortunately, she tumbled to the court a mere 12 minutes after her campaign started. And though she carried on valiantly after staying down on the grass for a while, she no longer had the mobility to keep close. She would take only five more games the rest of the way. The numbers told the story: eight double faults, a scant 53% of first serves in, 15 and 16 less receiving and total points won.

Williams notably took home the cheers in the aftermath. That said, she barely acknowledged them as she walked off the playing area and to the locker room. Perhaps she regretted that she let a grand opportunity go to waste. As she said in her post-mortem, “I’ve played through a lot of injuries and won a lot of matches injured. It’s almost a specialty of mine. I just couldn’t figure it out today.” In any case, her impact is no less clear. She may have been one and done in her record 24th appearance in Wimbledon, but her legend continues to grow.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.

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