A year after being shocked by Angelique Kerber, Serena Williams reasserted herself at the top of women’s tennis by winning the private battle with her sister.
The younger sibling both returned to world No 1 and moved ahead of Steffi Graf’s total of 22 Grand Slam titles when she subdued her beloved Venus 6-4, 6-4 in 82 minutes.
Unlike 12 months ago it was not a classic contest, with the most riveting drama being in the early stages when the eventual champion struggled to keep her calm in the face of a spirited challenge.
For Serena it was a seventh win in Australia and puts her within one Major win of Margaret Court, who accumulated them at a time when Melbourne was a lesser currency, unlike now.
After a relatively fallow 2016, when Wimbledon was the highlight, she has resumed normal service and in some style, having not dropped a set all fortnight.
At the end, after failing to return a forehand driven into the corner, Venus came round the net to hug her sister. She had arguably surprised even more in this tournament.
It always seemed that Venus’s biggest hope might be some sort of freeze from her sister, who came in as very strong favourite.
There were early signs that she could get a dividend from this, with Serena struggling for her rhythm as, expectedly, both players played close to the edge at almost maximum power.
Serena’s uptight mood was given away in the third game when, after early breaks had been exchanged, she slipped when trying to scamper in for a netcord and smashed her racket into the court during the stumble.
British umpire Alison Hughes saw the intent and immediately issued a code violation for racket abuse. All four initial service games were breaks, but then two holds were followed by another break from Serena when she hit a backhand down the line.
Although 36, Venus still moves like a ballerina – better than Serena – and if anything looks more sprightly than she did at 30. That has served her well this fortnight against lesser players but gradually her sister’s penetration was starting to tell.
The crowd were slightly subdued but got more into it at the start of the second when Venus held off a break point at 1-1 with a backhand winner, wanting to get their money’s worth with even the cheapest tickets going for more than £100.
Serena had never lost a Grand Slam final after winning the first set, but her sister’s high first serve percentage meant she stayed in it.
But her second serve was being attacked and Serena forced three break points at 3-3, and off the third one she ripped a backhand cross court winner. There were nervous moments in the last game but Venus netted two regulation forehands to ease the way.
Serena afterwards showered her sister with praise as she looked back on her run through the tournament.
‘I want to congratulate Venus, she is an amazing person and there’s no way I would be at 23 (Grand Slams) without her, there’s no way I would be at one. Thanks for inspiring me and making me the best player I can be. She has made an incredible comeback.
‘This was a tough one and I just kept praying.’
Their relationship has clearly survived this latest final with Venus telling her on the podium: ‘It has been an awesome win, I’m enormously proud of you”.
Source: Mail Online