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Venus in dreamland as she twirls into family final

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 26/1/17 Serena Williams of the U.S. signs autographs after winning her Women's singles semi-final match against Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 26/1/17 Serena Williams of the U.S. signs autographs after winning her Women's singles semi-final match against Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Melanie Burton

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Despite her poor recent track record against her sister Serena, Venus Williams will not just be "hanging out" in her first grand slam final in nine years at the Australian Open on Saturday.

The 36-year-old will take on Serena for the ninth time in a major final after coolly dismantling fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, despite dropping her first set of the tournament to the world number 35 in a 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3 victory.

Her celebrations are usually quite understated but the seven-times grand slam champion betrayed her delight by bouncing around the court before treating the crowd to an elaborate take on her traditional victory twirl.

"That moment was just joy," said Venus, who has lost seven of her last eight matches against her sister. "It was a heartfelt match. If the match is 6-2, 6-2 the moment is kind of clear that it's going to happen.

"But she played so well. There was never a moment where she wasn't just hitting the ball amazing and striking the ball with just such precision.

"It's always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire."

Venus has lost six of the eight meetings with her sister in grand slam finals, including her only previous trip to the title decider in Melbourne back in 2003.

"It would be beautiful," Venus said of the chance to win her first grand slam since she won her fifth Wimbledon crown in 2008.

"Clearly these matches are challenging, physically, mentally, all of that. It's a challenge. But I'm up for the challenge.

"If I'm here, that's why I'm here. I'm not just here to hang out halfway around the world. This is a long way to come for a hangout session."

Venus, who will be the oldest finalist at Melbourne Park since tennis turned professional in 1968, said inspiring a younger generation of players like Vandeweghe was "more than a cherry on top" , before expanding her thoughts on why sporting success inspired.

"I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line," she said. "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."

(Reporting by Melanie Burton, editing by Julien Pretot)

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