Thursday 27 October 2016

Serena in vogue again with slam cover shot in her sights

Oliver Brown

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

Williams: “One thing I have learnt this year is just to focus on my match.” Photo: John Walton/PA Wire.
Williams: “One thing I have learnt this year is just to focus on my match.” Photo: John Walton/PA Wire.

Usually Anna Wintour plants herself firmly in Roger Federer's corner, but yesterday the editor of 'Vogue' decided to savour the more bludgeoning aesthetic of a Serena Williams masterclass.

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Perched in the players' box besides Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams' coach, she watched with customary inscrutability as the world No 1 swept aside Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova en route to her 10th Wimbledon semi-final.

Come Saturday, Wintour could make Serena (right) a cover-star once more, should she join sister Venus in their fifth Wimbledon ladies' final together.

The sub-plots are tantalising: a potential 22nd grand slam triumph for Serena, to draw her level with Steffi Graf, or a sixth triumph for Venus on these lawns to emulate her sister.

On this evidence, the younger Williams should be made a heavy favourite after another unanswerable grass-court clinic to prove that her powers show no sign of waning.

Williams subdued a slippery adversary in Pavlyuchenkova, who had dropped only one set prior to this encounter, breaking at pivotal moments in both sets to prevail 6-4, 6-4.

Even at the age of 34, her willpower remains as potent as her blunderbuss serve.

"One thing I have learnt this year is just to focus on my match," said Williams, still sore at the upset of losing both this season's major finals to date.

"I'm excited to be able to get through. I want Venus to win this so badly but only if I am not in the final. I'm just trying to win my match - I had a tough opponent today and have a tough semi-final."

In this latest dismantling, she faced not a single break point, while winning a remarkable 90 per cent of points off her first serve.

Nobody can live with this level of dominance, least of all Pavlyuchenkova, who had plenty of pluck but none of the weapons to give herself a fighting chance.

A break to love in the first set, rounded off by a dolly of a second serve that Williams returned with a ferocity to send the ball into the next postal district, was a telling illustration of the gulf in class between the two.

Ever since she dropped a set to fellow American Christina McHale in the second round, Williams has played like a woman possessed.

Her serve is widely acclaimed as the greatest glory the women's game has seen and she has used it to pulverise three opponents in succession.

There is an admirable resilience about how she has hauled herself back from missing out on a calendar grand slam by a slender fraction last year, redoubling her efforts to reach Graf's landmark.

By the time she is finished, both Graf and Margaret Court, who still stands clear of the pack with 24 major singles titles, are likely to have been passed.

The coup de grace in this match was apt: a vicious ace down the middle that swerved out of Pavyluchenkova's reach.

"She was mentally there from the first point to the last," the Russian said."She served amazingly. I didn't have many chances at all." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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