By Ros Satar, in Melbourne

  • Venus Williams [13] def. Coco Vandeweghe 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3
  • Serena Williams [2] def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1
  • Head to Head: Serena leads 16-11
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – It might be their final moment in the Melbourne sun together but this, to many, is a dream final.

 

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Venus Williams [13] def. Coco Vandeweghe 6-7(3) 6-2 6-3

It truly was a tale of two semi-finals. The big hitting game of Coco Vandeweghe had laid waste to a resurgent Genie Bouchard, World No, 1 and defending champion Angelique Kerber and French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza and the fact she was playing Venus Williams (who she had once asked for an autograph), was no factor at the start of the match.

The pair traded blows from the back of the court, with Vandeweghe showing exactly why and how she had arrived at the semi-final stage, as they had a nervy start, trading breaks at the start of the set before staying toe-to-toe up to the tie-break.

Neither could hold on to their serve and surely the advantage would go to the first person to hold. That would be the younger American who wrapped up the set on her second set point.

We always say it will be a long way back but Williams has the experience in bucket-loads, as she shot back to a 4-1 lead, as Vandeweghe’s break point (lack of) conversion really started to dig into her confidence, as Williams levelled the match.

Williams broke at the start of the match, and fittingly (not to mention nervily) finally broke on her fourth match point – and it was some celebration!

Serena Williams [2] def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2 6-1

If Mirjana Lucic-Baroni had proved she could still teach a thing or two to Karolina Pliskova on her way to the semi-final, Serena Williams was there to just underline who was the champion. 19 years ago they faced each other in Wimbledon, both ‘super-young’ by Serena’s description, and both tipped to be the next best thing in tennis.

Life has thrown challenges at both of them over the years, as their careers took very different paths. Lucic-Baroni has sprung up surprises before in Slams, tripping up Simona Halep in the third round of the 2014 US open, third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round, and then hot favourite to make the final Karolina Pliskova.

But to face a fellow ‘oldie’ who ha had her own battles with injury and at times, form I the resistance finally came undone. Williams has yet to drop a set here and in fact on the way to the semi-final neither had Venus. But here she was in devastating form, where Lucic-Baroni was maybe just over-hitting.

In her quarter-final once she found her range, she was all over Pliskova like a rash, but Williams was devastatingly sharp, advancing to the final for the loss of just three games.

Serena Williams [2] v Venus Williams [13] – H2H: Serena leads 15-11

The last time there was a guaranteed Williams on the trophy was 2009 at Wimbledon and it is easy to think it would be a one-sided affair but Venus probably has one of the best head to head records against the former World No.1 who will be chasing title No. 23.

So who has the advantage? Both are extremely powerful baseline players, with huge serves but an agility borne of their doubles successes to give them an edge in terms of variety and movement around the court.

Serena looks to take immediate control of rallies but is probably the more consistent server of the two, but we would argue that maybe Venus has a better all-court game and her wingspan at the net is remarkable.

We saw in her semi-final how Williams’ patience in defence under a barrage of Vandeweghe shots opened up the corridor for attack, whereas Williams was just dominant in terms of accuracy and free points off her serve.

And it is hard to tell who will be the crowd favourite too. Serena has a chance to move ahead of Steffi Graf with 23 Open era major wins. Venus’ comeback after injury and illness is truly inspirational. In the pst battles between the sisters may have been muted but Venus has had the better of Serena even in their most recent encounter at the Rogers Cup in 2014.

The last time Venus beat Serena in a Slam final was in 2008 at Wimbledon. A year later little sister redressed the balance in their last Slam final. Is it time for Venus to shine one last time for her moment in the sunshine?

She weighed up the forthcoming final: “I don’t think there’s necessarily anything to exploit. It’s just about building a point that works for you, that’s going to work for me. If I can build a point, you know, to win it. Every point’s going to be a little different. She doesn’t have too many weaknesses.

“It would be beautiful [to win]. I have to earn it, so… It’s not a given. I’m going to do what I can to earn it. I’m not thinking about, Oh, what would it be like to win? I’m thinking about, What do I have to do to earn that? That’s my mentality right now.”

From Serena’s perspective, despite the score-line of her semi-final, there was actually a little pressure. The sisters barely exchanged a glance between the two semi-finals, as Serena explained:

“It felt really good because I felt like it was in my hands to force this Williams final. Believe it or not, I was feeling a little pressure about that, but it felt really good to get that win.”

While she plays it down, we know that to get yet another record will be a huge motivating factor. And while the fairy-tale would be Venus winning a Slam, we think it is history that beckons for Williams the younger.

Prediction: Serena in three sets.

 

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