NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams is still feeling young despite her senior status on the women’s tour.
Williams booked a quarter-final meeting with the only other 30-year-old left in the Open draw, Italy’s Francesca Schiavone, with a 7-6 6-3 victory over Shahar Peer, of Israel, Sunday.
Williams, who turned professional when Peer was just seven, might be feeling her years in her legs - tendinitis in both knees has seen her pull out of three tournaments this season - but mentally she insists she feels as youthful as ever.
“I don’t even know how I feel, well, still young I would say,” she said. “Still young, especially in the head, really young in the head.”
Williams, who blew the candles out on her birthday cake back in June, is in the twilight of her career.
Although only Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova have consistently dominated the grand slams in the third decade of their lives, Williams is not concerned.
“It seems like everybody is hitting their stride at 30 - it’s the new 20,” she said with a smile.
Her quip is not so fanciful when you consider that Schiavone reached her peak as a player just a few days shy of her 30th birthday with victory at this year’s French Open.
But Williams’ body is feeling the strain of a 51st grand slam and it is worth noting that she celebrated the last of her seven grand slam titles more than two years ago.
Despite the record books, the former world number one believes she could yet add a third U.S. Open to the titles won in 2000 and 2001.
“When the tournament started, it was little uncertain how I would hit the ball in a match,” Williams said of her battle with tendinitis.
”I haven’t played as much as the other players but I‘m still getting the win so that’s what’s important.
“It’s very exciting to be here and hitting well and getting the games on my side so that’s what I want to continue. Anything’s possible.”
When Williams has played she has tended to win. She has the best win-loss percentage - 86 percent - of any player on the tour aside from her younger sister Serena, who is sitting out Flushing Meadows with a foot injury.
Venus, who has banked more than $25 million during her illustrious clear, knows she needs to raise her game to make it to Saturday’s final.
Against Peer, she struggled with her own serve in the blustery conditions and she also managed to just convert two of 10 break points en route to winning the first-set tiebreak.
But Williams is philosophical about such slip-ups.
“It’s important not to really care whether or not you miss the last shot or the last 20, just to focus on the next one,” said Williams looking ahead to her last-eight encounter against Schiavone.
“Okay, maybe I‘m not playing as well as I expected but it doesn’t matter, I just have to get the ball in the court.”
Editing by Steve Ginsburg