In defeating sister Venus 6-4 6-4 to win the 2017 Australian Open women’s singles title, Serena Williams claimed a 23rd Grand Slam crown, an Open-era record. Having now moved ahead of Steffi Graf, the American great is within just one title of Margaret Court’s all-time record, which she will hope to equal at this year’s Roland-Garros.
Australian Open 2017 - Onwards and upwards for peerless Serena
“I don’t want people to talk to me about numbers any more, just to let me do what I do,” said Serena after her win. “It’s OK now, though. We can talk about it. It’s never enough: 23, 24, 25… I felt like I really elevated my game this year.” In the process, she has shown that it is possible to win a Grand Slam without dropping a single set at the age of 35, and that it is also possible to downplay an achievement that defies belief.
A Grand Slam winner for the first time at the 1999 US Open, Serena has won over a third of the women’s Grand Slam singles titles contested so far in the 21st century: 22 out of 65, which equates to a staggering 33,8 percent. In winning an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam event with a straight-sets defeat of sibling Venus in the final of the Australian Open, the American legend overtook Steffi Graf and moved to within a single major title of the all-time record holder, Australia’s Margaret Court.
Read more: Venus and Serena: Sister Act, take 9!
Though Serena is now into her mid-30s, Court’s status as the most successful women’s player ever is under severe threat, not least because the younger of the two Williams boasts a serve and a power game that are without equal in the history of the sport. In storming to another Australian title, Queen Serena, who will return to the top of the WTA Rankings on Monday, lost her serve just nine times in seven matches, four of those breaks coming against Barbora Strycova in the last 16, a match in which she had what she termed an “off day” with her serve.
"Thank you Venus for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard"
Not for the first time in her career, Serena found her big sister facing her on the final day. And, as has so often been the case, not even the emotional burden generated by such a family affair hampered Serena in her inexorable and even ruthless pursuit of victory. Things have been pretty much that way for the last 15 years, since Serena established herself as the best player in her family and the world with four straight Grand Slam final wins over her sister, a sequence that started at the 2002 French Open and continued through to the Australian Open the following year. It was win at all costs, all under the loving eye of Venus, who, as soon as she burst on to the scene in 1997, announced that her younger sis was “even stronger” than she was.
“She’s my inspiration,” said a grateful Serena of her older sister.“Thank you Venus for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard.” A finalist on the big stage once more at the age of 36, having shaken off the injuries and illness that had prevented her from checking into a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon 2009 – when she faced who else but Serena – Venus has once again shown her sibling the way forward, with Court’s long-standing record now hanging by a thread.