LONDON (Reuters) – Venus Williams will hope to reclaim her Wimbledon crown after a nine-year wait on Saturday against Garbine Muguruza, in a final that has the makings of a classic battle of the big hitters.
Venus, aged 37 and undergoing a barely credible tennis renaissance, last stepped out onto Centre Court to contest a singles final in 2009.
She lost that match to Serena Williams, having beaten her younger sister to lift the aptly named Venus Rosewater Dish the previous year – the most recent of her seven grand slam titles.
Victory in Saturday’s final – in which, with rain a possibility, the Wimbledon roof may come into play – would see the evergreen American surpass Serena as the oldest major title winner since the sport turned professional in 1968.
Having finished runner-up in the Australian Open in January, Venus would also move to the top of the leaderboard as the best main tour player of 2017.
Albeit on a less eye-catching scale, Muguruza is enjoying a comeback of her own.
Having reached her first slam final at Wimbledon in 2015 and then gone one better in 2016 by winning the French Open – playing Serena both times – the form of the Venezuela-born 23-year-old dipped towards the end of last year.
But since May she has made the semi-finals on the Rome clay – beating Venus in the last eight in three sets – and on the Birmingham grass.
With both players boasting similar strengths and weaknesses, the older Williams has been open about picking Serena’s brains on how best to neutralize Muguruza’s powerful serve and forehand, even joking this week that she wished her younger sister could play the match in her stead.
En route to Saturday’s final, for which bookies make the Spaniard the slight favorite, both players have dropped just one set.
That means a decider could be on the cards, which history suggests would favor whoever starts best.
Of grand slam contests in which they have taken the first set, Muguruza has lost just two of 42, and Williams 18 of 250.
(Reporting by John Stonestreet; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)