What an incredible year it has been for Venus Williams, the legendary seven-time Grand Slam champion. The American first reached a Grand Slam final in 1997, but 20 years after her first Major final, she still belongs to the top of women’s tennis as 2017 witnessed Williams reaching another two Grand Slam finals and ending the year inside the top-five of the rankings. To achieve what she had done at the age of 37, it is truly an incredible and inspiring story from the American.
Williams owns a 38-14 win-loss record throughout 2017, making at least the quarterfinals on six different occasions this year. She claimed an impressive seven top-10 wins this year, including a win over a reigning world number one over Angelique Kerber early in March during the Miami Open. Nine of her 14 losses came at the hands of lower-ranked players, including the US Open semifinal, Wimbledon, and Singapore final.
The average ranking of the opponents she defeated is 85.7, but her losses did not look that bad after all, considering those players she lost to had an incredible average ranking of 27. Williams mainly struggled against the aggressive players, but she managed to claw her way back to end the year as the world number five despite being ranked 17th at the start of the year.
Reaching the final at the Australian Open for just the second time in her career is definitely one of Williams’ highlights of the year. She got through some tough opponents and reached the second week in Melbourne with wins over Duan Yingying and Stefanie Voegele. Williams then ousted Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a tight encounter before grabbing an emotional win over Coco Vandeweghe in three tough sets, reaching her first Major final since 2009. There, she fell to sister Serena, who won her record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title.
Williams had a consistent North American hardcourt swing, having reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells and the last four in Miami. Despite having a heavily-strapped elbow, the American came from 1-6, 1-4 down to defeat Jelena Jankovic in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open even though she was visibly struggling with an injury. Williams then claimed impressive wins over Lucie Safarova and the in-form Peng Shuai in three sets, before falling to eventual champion Elena Vesnina. Williams then stormed into the semifinals of the Miami Open with straightforward victories over world number seven Svetlana Kuznetsova and world number one Angelique Kerber before being stopped by eventual champion Johanna Konta in a two-hour thriller.
Surprisingly, Williams sprung a quarterfinal run at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia where she clinched excellent wins over Lesia Tsurenko and Johanna Konta but ultimately fell to Garbine Muguruza in three sets. The seven-time Grand Slam champion followed it up with a fourth-round run at the French Open, and she was just one of the two players to have made the second week of all the Grand Slams in 2017.
Incredibly enough, Williams reached her second Grand Slam of the year at Wimbledon. At the age of 37, it was truly an inspiring story of how the American overcame her struggles with health issues in the past and put herself back into the top of the game once more. Williams received a tough draw at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, but she once again defied all the odds and shocked everyone by clinching excellent wins over Elise Mertens and Wang Qiang before ousting Naomi Osaka in straight sets.
Facing talented youngster Ana Konjuh in the fourth round, Williams faced no problems in triumphing as she kept up her high level of play, following it up with a win over reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko. A five-time owner of the Venus Rosewater Dish, Williams stunned the home crowd when she outclassed home favorite Johanna Konta easily, returning to the final after a seven-year absence. However, she fell in her second consecutive Major final, losing to Garbine Muguruza 5-7, 0-6.
Playing in front of a supportive home crowd at the US Open, Williams was tipped to mount a deep run during the fortnight especially after being given a favorable draw. The American strolled into the second week without losing a set before defeating Carla Suarez Navarro for a second quarterfinal appearance at Flushing Meadows in three years. In what could be a contender for the match of the year, Williams defeated Petra Kvitova in a thrilling last eight encounter after triumphing in a final-set tiebreak to reach the semifinals. There, she unexpectedly fell to eventual champion Sloane Stephens having wasted a lead in the deciding set. Nonetheless, her impressive run brought Williams into the top-five for the first time since 2011.
Williams had the perfect end to 2017, having qualified for the WTA Finals for the first time since 2009. She started her Singapore campaign with a shocking 2-6, 2-6 drubbing by Karolina Pliskova, and her chances to qualify from the group stage seemed to be slim after the loss. However, she unexpectedly defeated Jelena Ostapenko in a three-set thriller which lasted over three hours before upsetting Garbine Muguruza (whom she lost to twice this year) in a match where the winner would qualify for the semifinals. Another major final ensued as Williams ousted eighth seed Caroline Garcia in three tough sets, putting up a clinical serving display to reach the final. There, she just fell short to Caroline Wozniacki, and almost produced an improbable comeback from 4-6, 0-5 down but she eventually lost in straight sets.
Williams had a shaky start to the year and was plagued by injury problems as she was forced to withdraw from her first tournament. After claiming her first win of the year over Jade Lewis at the ASB Classic, the American opted to throw in the white towel before her second-round match against Naomi Osaka even started due to an elbow injury. Nonetheless, it proved to be a wise decision as Williams eventually reached the final in Melbourne.
After reaching her first Major final of the year, Williams found it difficult to continue her red-hot streak as she crashed out in the opening round of the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy to the eventual champion Kristina Mladenovic, falling 3-6, 1-6 after just a mere 55 minutes of play.
The American put up some fair performances during the North American hardcourt swing, reaching quarterfinals in Indian Wells and Miami. However, she failed to find her groove during the start of the clay court season, just coming up short to Laura Siegemund in a thrilling three-hour match at the Volvo Car Open, wasting a couple of match points along the way.
Williams’ season has been full of consistency as the American was able to produce some fair results constantly. However, the worst moment of her season was arguably the lead-up to the US Open after she suffered early exits in the Premier 5 tournaments held in Cincinnati and Toronto. The seven-time Grand Slam champion was ousted 2-6, 1-6 by eventual champion Elina Svitolina in the third round of the Rogers Cup before being upset by soon-to-be top-20 player Ashleigh Barty at the Western and Southern Open.
The American had the golden opportunity to reach yet another Major final at Flushing Meadows but failed to convert her opportunities as she fell to Sloane Stephens in the last four. Williams initially led by a break in the decider and was just two points away from grabbing the win, but eventually fell short to her compatriot after two hours and seven minutes. Surprisingly, Williams’ only tournament throughout the Asian Swing was the Hong Kong Tennis Open and she opted to skip the larger tournaments in Wuhan and Beijing. Her decision seemed to have backfired as she crashed out in the second round of the International event, being outclassed by Naomi Osaka in straight sets.
However, the most disappointing parts of her season are definitely her losses in the Major finals — especially when she was favorite to triumph at Wimbledon and Singapore. Williams also did not win any title throughout the year. Nonetheless, reaching the finals alone were already incredible enough for the American.
Season Grade: A
It has been a pretty incredible story for Venus this year — reaching two Grand Slam finals and returning to the top-five at the age of 37 is not what an ordinary person could achieve. Her inspiring story would definitely motivate the younger generation in the future, and she will leave behind her legacy, which will be remembered by all. Although Williams would be disappointed having lost all her big finals, her runs this year have been fairly impressive.