September 30, 2022

Jhere is some lèse-majesté showing up at Wimbledon and calling herself Venus. And it’s worse if the original Venus herself is present, watching you from the other side of the net. Surely Michael Venus, the world number 11 in doubles from New Zealand, would have known that every time the rowdies in the crowd shouted “C’mon Venus!” (or even “Marry me, Venus!”), they exclusively applauded the five-time Wimbledon women’s singles champion, on whom he launched salvos of betrayal.

Venus Williams has graced this tournament with her royal presence for 24 years now, just before her Silver Jubilee. On Friday night, playing mixed doubles on Court No 1 with Jamie Murray, there was every evidence that she still reigned supreme. Despite his age (42), despite his lack of match practice since last July, and despite the lingering leg injury still suggested by the tape on his right thigh, Williams still had the power to make his namesake regret taking his service.

There was just the right amount of danger in her and Murray’s first-round loss to Venus and Polish partner Alicja Rosolska 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3 in a match that lasted three sets and two and a quarter. hours. After the match, Williams slammed her partner for playing rough (he turned her down for that gig last year, pleading a sore neck), but the truth was that she herself had no plans to pick up. her racquet until she looks at it. sister Serena in action on center court and suddenly felt inspired. “I saw the grass and I was excited,” Williams said. “That’s why I asked him at the last minute. He just had a baby too, so I know there’s a lot going on.

Their siblings have, of course, set a precedent that both will be keen to set. The glamorous couple Andy Murray and Serena Williams of 2019 seem, three years later, like a collective hallucination of happier, pre-pandemic days. But the footage is real and this bigfoot duo made it to the third round before being stopped by top seeds Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar-Martinez.

Venus Williams plays a backhand as her partner Jamie Murray looks on. Photography: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

It is therefore the classic programming of algorithms: if you liked this, you will love it. On the contrary, the sequel promises an even better ending. Venus Williams has shrewdly picked the brother with form in this format: Jamie has won the mixed doubles here twice, and Williams is looking to better the runner-up medal she won with Bob Bryan. (If you can’t remember, it’s probably because it happened 16 years ago.)

While it took a few games for this short-notice partnership to take off, it seemed irresistible once it did. The pair broke up in game four, to everyone’s delight, when Williams overtook his namesake with a forehand down the tramline. Venus and Rosolska’s game plan, targeting Williams’ serve and forcing her to move up the court, failed in the face of the resilience of her groundstrokes. As Murray served the first set to love, his reflex masters proved the perfect counterpoint to his basic power. Call it the reverse mullet: party up front, business in the back.

Their opponents battled it out in the second set, Venus smashing a rebound ball into the first group of spectators. There was nothing but thrill between the teams as they headed for a second-set tie-break, and the atmosphere cooked like tennis popcorn at the net. Even the intervention of a stern voice from the referee could not stop a wave of Mexico as they began their third lap of the field.

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There was a break as the roof closed before the deciding set and Murray, who had foot faulted a few times, slipped straight into his first service game with three straight aces. He and Williams forced the break to go up 4-1, then held serve under the ever-present pressure; by the time the last ball was knocked out of bounds, even their heads were spinning in perfect unison. Judy Murray, Wimbledon’s resident Queen Mother, stood to applause. Not Andy, not Serena? No problem.