Serena Williams created history when she beat sister Venus to clinch the 2017 Australian Open women’s singles title on Saturday. The 6-4, 6-4 win at the Rod Laver Arena helped the younger Williams sister to go past Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Major titles and also reclaimed the World No.1 ranking. With 23 Grand Slam titles in the bag, Serena is now just one behind Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24. The two Williams sisters have now faced each other nine-times in Grand Slam finals with Serena holding a 7-2 edge after her latest victory.
However, Serena didn’t have it all her way in the final.
The first set started with neither player managing to hold serve in the early exchanges. Venus was the first to hold serve when she took a 3-2 lead. Serena finally woke up from her slumber to hold her serve and break Venus again to race to a 5-3 lead.
Venus held her serve the next game to stay alive in the first set but Serena comfortably held her own service game to close out the set 6-4 in 46 minutes.
The second set saw a neck-and-neck battle between the two sisters. There was nothing to separate them as the second set was level at 3-3 but the game after that saw Serena get the decisive break — the first of the second set.
Venus did manage to delay the inevitable by holding her serve to trail 4-5 but Serena was not in a very giving mood as she held her serve to win the second set and match.
“I would really like to take this moment to congratulate Venus, she is an amazing person,” said Serena.
“There is no way I would be at 23 without her. There is no way I would be at one without her.
“She is my inspiration, she is the only reason I am standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist.”
It was Venus — when still a teenager with beads in her hair — who knocked Serena out in round two on her Grand Slam debut in Melbourne 19 years ago, and they have since played nine major finals together, living each other’s highs and lows.
At 36 and seeded 13, Venus had turned back the clock to make her first Grand Slam title match since Wimbledon in 2009, but adding to her seven major successes was not to be.
“Serena Williams… That is my little sister guys. Congratulations Serena on number 23,” said an emotional Venus.
“I have been right there with you, some of them I lost right there against you. Yes, that is weird but it is true.
“But it has been an awesome thing, your win has always been my win, I think that you know that. Those times that I couldn’t be there, didn’t get there, you were there. I am enormously proud of you.”
Showing the single-mindedness that has propelled her to greatness, a focused Serena, seeded two, overcame a scratchy and nervous start in which all four opening games were breaks and when she smashed a racquet in frustration.
Despite the loss, being in the final was a big achievement for Venus, whose career went off the boil for several years after she was diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011.
In the three years afterwards, she failed to get past the third round at any Slam and her ranking plunged, with her career seemingly in permanent decline.
But she managed her schedule carefully and adopted a raw foods and vegan diet, making the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year before her run to the decider in Melbourne.