LONDON (AP) — Through it all, Venus Williams kept working, kept striving, kept eyeing yet another Wimbledon championship.
Through it all, through the difficult days of adjusting to life with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease, through the disappointing days of first-round losses that led to questions about retirement, through all of the accumulating years, she pressed on. And on Saturday, facing Garbine Muguruza in the final, Williams had a shot at her sixth title at the All England Club — nine years after her last one and, remarkably, 17 years after her first.
Williams twice was a point from taking the opening set before unraveling completely, dropping the last nine games and losing 7-5, 6-0 to Muguruza, who earned her first Wimbledon championship.
“This is where you want to be. I like to win. I don’t want to just get to a final,” said Williams, at 37 the oldest woman to play in a title match at the grass-court major since 1994. “It’s just about playing a little better.”
She appeared ready to take control Saturday, ahead 5-4 in the first set and with Muguruza serving at 15-40. But Williams netted a forehand to close a 20-stroke exchange on the first set point. And on the second, she sent a return long. Muguruza would go on to win that game — and the next eight, too, to earn her third Grand Slam trophy.
Williams owns seven of them — five at Wimbledon in 2000-01, 2005, 2007 and 2008; two at the U.S. Open in 2000-01.
But her coach, David Witt, offered one explanation for the way everything came undone for Williams against Muguruza.
“It was just nerves,” Witt said.
“She never, I thought, looked like she was relaxed out there,” he added.
Williams arrived in England a few weeks after being involved in a two-car accident in Florida. Two weeks after the crash, a 78-year-old passenger in the other vehicle died. At a news conference following her first-round victory at Wimbledon, Williams was asked about the episode, and she tried to respond, before wiping away tears and briefly leaving the room to compose herself.
Witt said they hadn’t discussed what happened with each other once the tournament began, hoping Williams could “just focus on the tennis.”
Up until late in the first set Saturday, Williams did play quite well.