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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, October 26, 2017

Venus Williams once famously described herself as a “cheagan”—a vegan who sometimes cheats on her disciplined diet.

The 37-year-old Williams continues to show a ravenous appetite for the fight—and the skill to cook up solutions on court.

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In a rematch of the Wimbledon final, Williams delivered a masterful mix of offense and defense defeating Garbiñe Muguruza, 7-5, 6-4, to secure a semifinal spot in the WTA Finals.

Moving fluidly and striking with authority on key points, the 2008 WTA Finals champion avenged her 7-5, 6-0, loss to Muguruza in the Wimbledon final.

“What can I say? I played an amazing opponent; she has had an amazing year,” Williams told Andrew Krasny afterward. “I was so happy to win the last point.”

Eighteen years after her debut at the season-ending event, Williams joins Karolina Pliskova advancing to the semifinals from the White Group.

Despite losing to Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3, 6-1, in today’s first match Pliskova won the White Group by virtue of her victories over Williams and Muguruza earlier this week.

The third-seeded Czech will play the second-place finisher from the Red Group, while Williams will play the Red Group champion in Saturday’s semfiinals.

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki currently leads the Red Group with a 2-0 record with world No. 1 Simona Halep and Caroline Garcia both battling for semifinal spots.

The Williams vs. Muguza battle figured to be a match of frenetic first-strike tennis between flat hitters at their best hugging the baseline.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion played spin shrewdly, sliding her sidespinning forehand crosscourt to push the Spaniard wide and create space for her crosscourt backhand. Williams converted six of 13 break points.

“It’s not easy out here,” Williams said. “You have to play every point well or you find yourself losing the game. I had some great coaching coming into the match so I hope we can continue one more.”

Exploiting successive double faults from the veteran, Muguruza snapped off a passing shot posting the first break of the match for 4-3.

Actively seeking to step inside the baseline, Williams whipped a forehand down the line breaking back to level after eight games.

The Wimbledon champion bungled a forehand volley to fall behind love-30 in the 12th game.

Working Williams off the court with a wide-angled forehand, Muguruza had a huge expanse of open court, but wacked a forehand down the line long to face double set point.

The Spaniard saved the first set point with a short volley and dodged a second when Williams dragged a mid-court forehand wide. A crackling crosscourt rally ended with Williams blasting a short-angled backhand winner for a third set point.

Cornering Muguruza on her forehand side, Williams forced the former No. 1 to counter off her back foot eliciting a netted forehand to snatch the 55-minute opening set.

Coach Sam Sumyk came out on court, encouraged his charge and implored the two-time Grand Slam champion to play on her terms.

Immediately applying pressure, Muguruza moved with more urgency converting her fourth break point with an inside-out forehand to start the second set with a break.

Shrugging it off, Williams broke right back in the second game.

A terrific drop shot and lob combination dragged the veteran forward and earned Muguruza double break point. When Williams pasted a low backhand into net, Muguruza has the third straight break of the set for 2-1.

Staying low and using her legs to drive through her shots, Muguruza was connecting with biting force backing up the break.

Even at age 37 with more than two decades of pro circuit mileage on her legs, Williams remains one of the best movers on the Tour. She worked the width of the court effectively probing and challenging Muguruza to come up with awkward shots on the run breaking back for 3-all.

Falling out of rhythm on her service motion, Williams fell off that stroke spitting up a pair of double faults then clanking a forehand into the middle of the net to gift back the break in the seventh game.

Resiliency is a Williams asset and she showed her ability to shake off a poor game and engage in a new one breaking back at 30.

A jolting body serve followed by a Muguruza error helped Williams hold for 5-4—one game from the semifinals.

Blasting the two-time Grand Slam champion backward with the depth of her drives, Williams banged out double match point.

On the second, Muguruza pasted a forehand into net as Williams wrapped up a one hour, 41-minute win and booked her spot in the Singapore semifinals.

Williams explained her longevity simply afterward.

“I use a lot of sun protection, sun screen, eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and that’s the key to my success,” a smiling Williams said.


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