(updates with quotes)
By Paul Majendie
LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - Four-times champion Venus Williams swept into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon on Monday with an impressive display of power tennis against Russian teenager Alisa Kleybanova. Williams, firmly on course to meet her sister Serena in the final, won 6-3 6-4 and waxed lyrical afterwards about her love affair with Wimbledon.
“This is the most important tournament in tennis as far as history and, I guess, prestige, and it’s just wonderful to win here.”
“I just love it here. It’s just that simple,” said Venus who with Serena has dominated 21st century Wimbledon.
The number seven seed, often a slow starter, was razor-sharp from the beginning against the 18-year-old Muscovite, who was broken in the eighth game when she double-faulted three times.
The youngest player left in the tournament battled hard against the vastly more experienced Williams, 28, whose game at Wimbledon this year has sharpened from match to match.
In the second set, Kleybanova fought a fine rearguard action. She survived two match points at 5-2, broke Williams’s serve, held her own to love, then finally succumbed to the title holder.
Asked why she thought so many of the top seeds had been knocked out at Wimbledon this year, she said “Every player is ready to play, especially at these slams. Everyone comes out with double vengeance so you just have to be ready.”
Venus is on course to play her sister, twice champion Serena in the final.
She felt that clashing on the biggest stage in tennis brought out the best in both of them. “We can both pull a shot out of anywhere. So we’re both being on our toes for that.”
Revenge could also be sweet for Venus. Serena has beaten her in the two Wimbledon finals they have contested in 2002 and 2003.
At her news conference, Venus was pressed constantly about how she felt, as champion, about having to play on the outside Court Two, which is known as the “Graveyard of Champions” because it has been the scene of so many shocks.
She refused to be drawn into criticising the court scheduling but did say of Court Two “I’m actually really tall so I feel a little cramped. There’s a lot of back, there’s less side.”
But when reporters kept returning to the scheduling, she told them “Let’s keep it on the real. I’m here for the tennis.”
Reporting by Paul Majendie, Editing by Clare Lovell