London (AP) — Venus Williams beat one 19-year-old opponent at Wimbledon on Friday. She’ll face another on Monday.
Both of those players were born months after Williams made her debut at the All England Club.
Think about that for a minute.
Williams’ 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Naomi Osaka of Japan made the 37-year-old American the oldest woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova was that age when she was the tournament’s runner-up in 1994.
“I’ve had to step it up. I imagine that’s going to continue,” Williams said. “All I can do is try to be my best.”
This is the 20th appearance at the grass-court major for Williams, who has won the championship five times since her first match at the All England Club in 1997. Next up for Williams on Monday, with a quarterfinal berth at stake, is another foe not yet 20: Ana Konjuh of Croatia.
Osaka spoke about growing up admiring Williams and her younger sister, Serena.
She also acknowledged that these sorts of important rounds at important tournaments are much newer to her. That sort of thing can make a difference at crucial moments, such as the opening tiebreaker Friday. Osaka led it 3-0, before Williams claimed the next seven points.
“I actually feel like it’s better that she beat me, because I can learn more from her, and there’s something more I can look forward to,” the 59th-ranked Osaka said. “There’s more of a goal for me to practice every day and stuff.”
As for all of the chatter about gaps in, um, experience?
Williams said she didn’t focus on that at all when it came to Friday’s match.
“It’s interesting, for sure. But I guess when you walk on the court, I don’t think either of us is thinking about the age,” she said. “You’re thinking about: How do I win?”
The 10th-seeded Williams is playing in her first tournament since a two-car crash in Florida on June 9. A 78-year-old man in the other vehicle died about two weeks later and his estate has sued filed a lawsuit against Williams. On Friday, police said video shows that Williams legally entered an intersection seconds before she drove into the path of the other car.
When asked about the accident after her first-round match this week, Williams teared up during her news conference and was given time by the moderator to leave the room and compose herself. The topic was not raised Friday after the victory over Osaka.
With Serena off the tour because she is pregnant, and Maria Sharapova recovering from a leg injury, Williams was one of only two past Wimbledon winners in the women’s field when the tournament began. After a second-round loss by Petra Kvitova, Williams is the lone champ standing.
The 27th-seeded Konjuh had never been past the third round until upsetting 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 on Friday.
Also advancing were French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, No. 2-seeded Simona Halep, No. 4 Elina Svitolina, No. 6 Johanna Konta, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and two-time Australian Open champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
The matchups Monday: Halep vs. Azarenka, Ostapenko vs. Svitolina, Konta vs. Garcia.
Azarenka has played only five matches since returning to the tour after a hiatus to have her first baby. But don’t think she’s just happy to have made it to the fourth round.
“I’m still very ambitious and focused. I’m not on cloud nine for making it to the second week, but I do appreciate everything that I have been able to achieve right now, and I don’t take anything for granted,” said Azarenka, who beat Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court. “I can’t be too happy. I’m never really satisfied until it’s done.”