If it’s possible to look carefree on a tennis court, that’s what Venus Williams at 37 is doing, appearing Thursday as if the swirling winds on Stadium 1 all but carried her past Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-3, 6-2 and into her first semifinal appearance at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001.
Her next opponent, No. 20 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, is 17 years Williams’ junior but these days, the No. 8 appears ageless.
“This was my first breakout tournament when I was 16,” said the No. 8 seed. “To come back, hopefully I’m getting closer to the title, so I’ll just keep trying.”
Tossing her towel into the stands as she left the court, Williams had reason to be optimistic after reducing her 29-year-old opponent to a disoriented, off-balance performance in which she failed on six-of-seven break point opportunities and won 46 total points to 62 for Williams. Williams also had five aces and was 67 percent on first serves to 59 percent for Suarez Navarro.
But beyond the statistics, the one-hour, 11-minute victory was a Williams’ clinic on strong confident groundstrokes against an opponent who was forced to flail away.
“I’m definitely happy,” Williams said. “You kind of hope for this kind of score line, but you never know if you’re actually going to get it. I was happy with the play.”
When it was over, Williams told ESPN’s Pam Shriver that she was unaware of how the wind affected her game. “Honestly, I don’t know” she said. “I don’t care what’s happening on the court, I just try to execute my game.”
Venus previously reached the semifinals in 1998, when she lost to eventual champion Martina Hingis, and in 2001, when she pulled out with tendonitis giving Serena a walkover into the final, where Serena beat Kim Clijsters for the title.
Serena didn’t return to Indian Wells until 2015, with Venus not coming back until a year later. The occasion of their third-round match here on Monday night and more importantly, the necessity of Venus to play at a high level in her straight-set win, has seemed only to elevate her play since then. But Venus wouldn’t buy it.
“No,” she said, “because I was actually playing good tennis even before the tournament started. I don’t know. I really don’t think of it that way.”