Serena Williams takes on sister Venus today in the final of the 2017 Australian Open.
Phenomenal. Surreal. Extraordinary. Momentous. There’s simply not enough adjectives to describe what we will all get to witness on Saturday. Serena and Venus Williams will meet for the 28th time, the 15th time at a grand slam and the ninth time in a major final. It’s a rematch of the 2003 Australian Open final, and there’s so much on the line.
One of the following will happen:
- Either Serena wins and breaks the record for most slams won in the Open Era, going beyond Steffi Graf to 23 majors and moving to within one of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24.
- Or Venus emerges triumphant and breaks the record for the longest gap between grand slam wins (her last major triumph was nine years ago at Wimbledon 2008).
It’s simply unbelievable that at 35 and 36 years of age respectively, Serena and Venus are about to compete against one another once more for major silverware. Their longevity is unprecedented in tennis and basically any other sport. To think that two sisters who grew up in humble beginnings in Compton and only got into tennis because their father saw the sport on TV and decided they should take it up and they went on to become the best players of their own era is incredible. And now, on Saturday night in Melbourne, another chapter of this amazing story will be written.
After enduring a disappointing year by her ridiculously high standards in 2016, Serena has the opportunity to right the wrongs with just one more victory. Serena will reclaim the No. 1 ranking she relinquished to Angelique Kerber following the US Open last year if she wins her seventh Australian Open crown. And in her current form, it’s hard not to see her emerging victorious.
There were small question marks surrounding Serena’s form coming into Melbourne after her terrible, wind-affected performance in Auckland where she lost to Madison Brengle in the second round. But they’ve all well and truly been erased over the last fortnight. Serena has stormed into the Australian Open final without dropping a set, coming through an incredibly tough draw with relative ease. First up was Belinda Bencic, a former top 10 player who if injury-free throughout 2017, will surely return there at some point this season. Serena vanquished her in routine fashion. Next up was Lucie Safarova, a former top five player in a rematch of the 2015 French Open final. No worries for Serena, who conquered the Czech in almost identical fashion. Nicole Gibbs and Barbora Strycova were dispatched comfortably before Serena went into battle with Johanna Konta - the in-form Brit who had won nine straight matches and 18 straight sets heading into the showdown. However Serena showcased why, at her best, she’s simply on another level to every other player on tour. She ruthlessly and meticulously picked apart Konta’s game and emerged a dominant 6-2 6-3 winner. And then Serena saved her most clinical performance for last, demolishing and ending the fairytale run of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni for the loss of just three games in the semis.
"I'm obviously here to win the tournament,” Serena said after easing past Lucic-Baroni. “That's the reason I come all this way. Yet, at the same time, I don't have anything to prove. I don't have to win another match as long as I live. I just have to have fun and do what I do best.
"That's what I've been doing this tournament. I feel like, overall, I've been doing pretty good."
She certainly has been doing ‘pretty good’. However so has sister Venus.
enus Williams (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
It’s true, Venus hasn’t defeated the same calibre of opponents as Serena over the last two weeks. But you can only play who’s in front of you, and at the end of the day, Venus was the best player out of the 64 competitors in her half of the draw.
Venus and her run to the final is even more remarkable. The 36-year-old hadn’t made a grand slam final since Wimbledon in 2009, while her last appearance in a major title match outside of the All England Club was at the Australian Open in 2003, where she lost to Serena. Venus, I feel, doesn’t get the credit she deserves. We’re talking about a player who reached a grand slam final at the US Open in 1997 having won just ONE prior match at a major before that tournament. Can you imagine the same thing happening today? I certainly can’t.
Live Stream: Australian Open tennis live from Melbourne!
And when you factor in all of the health and injury problems Venus has been forced to confront over the years, including the energy-sapping autoimmune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome, then her success in Melbourne becomes even more admirable. Venus didn’t lose a set until her semi-final clash with the in-form CoCo Vandeweghe - the fiery American who had earlier conquered Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza without relinquishing a set herself. Vandeweghe came out firing and an explosive tiebreak saw her become the first player to take a set off Venus this tournament. However Venus weathered the storm and gradually wore Vandeweghe down, emerging a 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3 winner and advancing through to her 15th grand slam final.
"When I'm playing on the court with her, I think I'm playing the best competitor in the game," Venus said of Serena in her post-match press conference.
"I don't think I'm chump change either, you know. I can compete against any odds. No matter what, I get out there and I compete.
"[It] won't be an easy match. I know that it won't be easy. You have to control yourself, then you also have to hopefully put your opponent in a box. This opponent is your sister, and she's super awesome."
One other aspect of this showdown that should be noted is the emotional side of things. It must be so difficult for both sisters. On one hand you have Serena, one of the greatest players of all time, chasing history against her own flesh and blood. And then you have Venus, attempting to stop her sister making that aforementioned history. How can one simply block all that out, take to court and do the job at hand?
Serena leads their head-to-head 16-11 and has won seven of their last eight meetings on tour, with Venus’s last victory coming at Montreal in 2014. Their last contest was at the 2015 US Open, where Serena won in three sets, while Serena has also won six of their last eight slam finals.