Back in 2001, while Lleyton Hewitt was busy taking over from Gustavo Kuerten at the top of the men’s tree, Venus and Serena Williams played their first ever Grand Slam final against one another at the US Open. 16 years on, here they are again in a title match, this time at the 2017 Australian Open. This will be the ninth all-Williams Grand Slam final. To date, the elder of the two siblings has seven majors to her name, far short of the 22 which the younger currently has in her trophy cabinet, as she hunts down the overall record for Grand Slam titles.
Australian Open 2017 - Venus and Serena: Sister Act, take 9!
At the end of the match, the look of joy on her face was matched only by the sheer enormity of the feat she had achieved. At the age of 36, no less, Venus Williams was adding to her tally of 14 Grand Slam finals. This represents quite a come-back for the American, who had last featured in the final of a major back in 2009 at Wimbledon, and whose serious health problems had seemingly consigned her to playing out her career in the chasing pack. But the Williams sisters do not know the meaning of the word "impossible" – as evidenced by Venus making the final of a Grand Slam almost 20 years after her first appearance, back at the US Open in 1997!
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 26 janvier 2017
It was a delight to hear Venus express her satisfaction and enthusiasm after the match, which saw her defeat fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 – the opening set being the first that she had dropped all tournament."That moment was just joy. You have to enjoy that because there's a lot of moments out there where you are not happy with your game. It's not necessarily a ton of fun, that's also frustration. You have to enjoy that process, and you have to love the game. What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there is no do-over, there's no retake, there is no voice-over. It's triumph and disaster witnessed in real-time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can't fake it. You can't. It's either you do it or you don't."
The Venus fairy tale vs Serena and the weight of history
For Serena on the other hand, making the final is a more everyday occurrence, even at the age of 35. This is the eighth time in her last 10 Grand Slams that she will be playing the title match (and in the other two, she made the semis!) She is now within touching distance of regaining the world No.1 ranking that she lost to Angelique Kerber at last year’s US Open, and showed her determination to do so by sweeping aside Mirjana Lucic 6-2, 6-1 in just 50 minutes to reach the final here in Melbourne. Thus far, she is yet to lose so much as a set, and will start Saturday’s family final as the hot favourite.
.@serenawilliams is through to the women's final against her sister @Venuseswilliams #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/Bj0SzreDXw — #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) 26 janvier 2017
"Another total inspiration: my big sister. Venus is basically my world and my life. I am so happy for her", she said. But despite the line-up for the championship match, Serena will be fully focused. While people will look back fondly on Thursday’s semi-finals and laud Venus’ achievement, Saturday will be a different kettle of fish entirely. No quarter will be offered and none taken, as the Venus fairy tale takes on Serena and the weight of history. A 23rd title would put the younger of the two sisters ahead of Steffi Graf, and get her to within one more crown of matching the all-time record of local hero Margaret Court. And after all, when it comes down to it, you may love your siblings, but there can be no fiercer rival on the other side of the net!