Nick Westby: Ageless warriors Williams and Federer set to enchant Wimbledon once again

Venus Williams is in her ninth Wimbledon singles final (Picture: PA)
Venus Williams is in her ninth Wimbledon singles final (Picture: PA)
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At some stage, this new generation of tennis players that has been threatening to do so, will finally break through and consign the sport’s most golden of generations to the history books.

But not yet...

For while the likes of Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov, continue to dance around the fringes, the names who will take their place in the Wimbledon singles’ finals over the next two days have been contesting the biggest battles at the very heart of the game’s elite since the turn of the century.

Since before that, in fact, in the case of Venus Williams, whose first Grand Slam final came 20 years ago this summer at the US Open when she was just 17 years of age.

This most enduring of competitors will contest her 16th slam final at Wimbledon today, when she takes on Garbine Muguruza, a young woman from Spain who has done more than most of the current crop of promising young twenty-somethings to threaten the old guard.

Williams might not have won a major title since her fifth Wimbledon crown nine long years ago, but she has remained at the forefront of her sport, even through the diagnosis of a rare illness that sidelined her for the best part of a year, the ravages of an ageing body, and the domination of her younger sister, Serena.

Over the last fortnight they have shown that age is no barrier, that reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated and that the young pretenders have some learning to do if they are to ever accept the challenge of succeeding two absolute powerhouses of the men’s and women’s game.

The YP’s Nick Westby

The Williams’ siblings met in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year, Venus’s first slam showdown in eight years.

That fortnight in Melbourne at first looked to be an aberration from the growing changes in the game, with the women’s final contested by the American sisters and the men’s showpiece a reunion of the two most successful players in the game, and the dominant duo of the noughties, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

But subsequent slams have shown that to be the rediscovered norm, with 2017 the year of the the thirtysomething player.

Nadal won the French Open title for a 10th time last month, and Federer yesterday booked a place in his 11th Wimbledon final with victory over Tomas Berdych.

Federer might not have vacated the scene as frequently as Venus over the last few years, but 12 months ago with Novak Djokovic holding all four major titles and Andy Murray embarking on a run of form that would see him rise to No 1 in the rankings, a revival of the sort we have seen from Federer in the last six months had not been anticipated.

Indeed, such has been the familiarity of Federer’s resurgence that it has led to many questioning whether he is playing the best tennis of his career, even though the Swiss has dismissed such a notion himself, mindful no doubt of the levels he reached when in his pomp in the middle of the last decade.

But still, he is playing some sumptuous tennis, has barely lost any of the touch he has shown since bursting onto the scene in 2001 when he ended the reign of Pete Sampras, and looks as fit as someone half his age.

Federer is the complete professional off the court, looking after his body and mind to get the best out of both when it matters most, and it has earned him a shot at what would be a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title and record-extending 19th Grand Slam honour.

Between them, Federer and Williams have contested 18 Wimbledon finals to date.

Over the last fortnight they have shown that age is no barrier, that reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated and that the young pretenders have some learning to do if they are to ever accept the challenge of succeeding two absolute powerhouses of the men’s and women’s game.

So sit back and enjoy these two ‘golden oldies’ doing what they do best, playing their hearts out and using all their skill, guile and experience to enchant the Centre Court crowd once more. I would finish by saying you never know if this is the last you’ll see of them, but knowing these two...