Australian Open 2017: Serena Williams beats Venus Williams to win 23rd Grand Slam title
She is now only one title away from the all-time record held by Australia's Margaret Court.
In the battle of the Williams sisters, Serena beat older sister Venus, 6-4 6-4, to win her 23rd Grand Slam title, overtaking Steffi Graff's Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Both players were rusty to start with, committing loads of uncharacteristic errors. But after a few games, they settled into the match nicely, subjecting fans to a tennis treat on a Saturday afternoon. Serena proved to be too strong in the end though, as Venus struggled to cope up with the pace on Serena's serve and groundstrokes.
The Williams sisters first met in 1998. Incidentally, it was at the Australian Open itself. While Venus coasted through that match, hardly anyone would have expected the same to happen this time around. Their head-to-head indicated the same. Serena leads 16-11, winning 4 of their 5 previous encounters. It was always going to tough for Venus to keep up with her stronger and fitter younger sister.
While Venus did come into the match in some breathtaking form, not losing a set until her semi-finals, Serena was in the zone herself as well. She hadn't lost a single set coming into the finals, looking more determined than ever to go past Steffi Graff's open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
The first set was a "You break, I break. You hold, I hold" kind of a set. None of the players seemed to be wanting to take the lead in the initial few games, almost seeming a bit too casual at times.
Venus served ahead in the first, and made two bad unforced errors to go down 0-30. She served an ace, in a bid to pull it back slightly. But a monstrous backhand return from Serena gave her two break points.
On the first break point itself, Serena pulled off a magical forehand crosscourt passing winner, putting her anticipation skills to work. Venus had an easy short ball to put away at the net, but Serena picked the right side to move, and pulled off an unreal winner.
Venus had a break point on the Serena serve in the very next game, thanks to a bunch of pedestrian unforced errors from the Serena Williams racquet. And then a Serena forehand that sailed long on break point helped Venus level the score at 1-1.
In another long game with enthralling rallies, Serena converted on her third break point, with Venus dumping two errors into the net. There were sparks of brilliance from both the sisters in that game, with them slowly finding their groove. Serena led 2-1, with a break.
None of them seemed to be willing to hold serve. After being 40-30 up, Serena served three double faults to hand Venus the break back. The score read 2-2.
So Venus was the first one to hold serve, going up 3-2. But the match still did not look like a Grand Slam final, with errors galore from both players.
From 0-30 down, Serena suddenly produced some big serves out of nowhere to level things up at 3-3.
Two glorious returns by Serena at 30-30 gave Serena the break for 4-3. She looked to be settling into the match, slowly, but steadily.
The first point of the next game produced a delightful rally, with Venus coming on top with a ridiculously angled forehand crosscourt winner. After going 0-30 down, Serena looked to have enough of it. She played some blistering tennis to hold serve, running Venus from side to side, opening up a 5-3 lead for herself. But some strong serving by Venus forced Serena to serve out the set at 5-4.
And Serena did that in the most clinical way, holding at love, hitting two aces to finish the set off.
The first set was always going to be huge, as Serena was 20-0 after winning the first set in Grand Slam finals. And once Venus had lost that, it was always going to be a tough road back for her.
The set was a pretty high quality one though. With both players nicely in their groove, it made for some pleasurable viewing.
Both the players started off by holding pretty comfortably, unlike the first set. Venus started off by holding serve with a beautiful backhand down the line winner, and thus, led 1-0.
But with Serena's first serve working like a charm, Venus found it tough to make inroads on it. She quickly held to make it 1-1.
An extremely aggressive return game from Serena saw her take a 40-0 lead on Venus' serve. But Venus pulled out a few magic tricks out of her bag to somehow win 5 points on the trot to hold serve for a 2-1 lead. Venus was starting to look more confident at this point in time, and was making life tough for Serena.
But none of it bothered Serena, as she served away to make it 2-2. Venus channeled her inner Serena in the next game to hold serve with some free points on her serve to hold for a 3-2 lead.
Serena held serve comfortably again for 3-3. In the next game, Serena upped the ante on her returns, grinding it out from the baseline and drawing errors out of Venus. While Venus managed to save the first couple of break points on the back of two Serena errors, the third one proved to be a bit too much, as Serena thwarted a backhand return winner to break for a 4-3 lead.
Some gigantic first serves, and she was 5-3 up, one game away from making history. But Venus used all her experience to make her serve out, arguably, one of the most important games of her career.
You could sense a bit of drama, as Serena went down 15-30 while serving for the championships, but a couple of nervy points from Venus drove Serena home.