INDIAN WELLS: Seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams reached the WTA Indian Wells semi-finals for the first time since 2001 on Thursday by routing Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 6-2.
Despite the windy conditions, Williams improved to 5-2 on the season, which includes a third round win on Monday over sister Serena, who was making her return to the WTA after having a baby.
“You kind of hope for this kind of scoreline, but you never know if you’re actually going to get it,” Williams said.
Williams, who at 37 is the oldest player in the women’s draw, has played sparingly this year but is just beginning to step up her game.
She next faces 20-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina, who cruised to an easy 6-0, 6-2 victory in 58 minutes over the world number 10 Angelique Kerber.
She dominated Suarez Navarro, who became increasingly frustrated and had to call her coach a couple of times to come down to the court in between sets for advice.
“We’ve had a lot of great matches,” Williams said of playing Suarez Navarro. “I was glad that I was able to close it out.”
Williams is back in the semis in the California desert for the first time since pulling out before a semi-final match against Serena in 2001, with an injury.
Williams, who is seeded eighth, will need that experience when she takes the court in the next round against Kasatkina, who has been jackhammering Grand Slam champions for the past year and rolling over top 10 players this week in Indian Wells.
They have played twice before in 2016 with Williams winning at Wimbledon, 7-5, 4-6, 10-8 and Kasatkina winning another tough three setter in Auckland, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3.
Williams said she remembers the Wimbledon contest but couldn’t recall losing to her in New Zealand.
“I only remember one. So I will try to remember the other one at some point,” Williams said.
Kasatkina defeated her second straight top 10 player as she needed less than an hour to rout Kerber and book her first Indian Wells semi-final.
Kasatkina, who is ranked 19th in the world, has beaten all four reigning Grand Slam winners in the past year, including US Open winner Sloane Stephens in the third round in Indian Wells.
She advanced to the quarter-finals with a three-set win over world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, who won the Australian Open in January.
Asked about her giant-killing form of late, Kasatkina said she is young and eager to learn every time she steps on the court against a Grand Slam champion, world number one or top 10 player.
“Of course it was not easy,” she said. “They are one of the best players in the world, winning Grand Slams.
Germany’s Kerber is definitely in that elite class. In 2016 she won both the Australian Open and the US Open, beating Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova, respectively.
Kasatkina said she is trying to stay humble and not get caught up in her recent success.
“I’m a normal human. I don’t want people to think that I’m somebody really special, because I’m just a normal human which loves football, which loves good food, you know.
“So I’m just somebody who is also playing tennis.”
Williams played in her first Indian Wells tournament (1996) a year before Kasatkina was born.
The Russian said playing Venus in a semi-final match in Indian Wells would be a “dream come true.”
“She is a legend and it would be on one of the biggest courts. It is about enjoying every second on the court.” —AFP