The Australian Open continues to be an event, where years have been rolled back. Defying her 36 years, American veteran Venus Williams booked herself a place in the final by beating her much younger compatriot and tournament giant-killer Coco Vandeweghe on Thursday. Soon after that match, Venus’ more celebrated younger sibling Serena also entered the final after stopping the fairytale run of Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Now the sisters will face each other for the Australian Open title, which Serena has won 6 times in her illustrious career. For the resurgent Venus Williams, this will be her second Australian Open final after 14 years. She had lost to Serena on the last occasion.
USA’s Coco Vandeweghe had a great run in this year’s Australian Open. After comfortably beating Italian Roberta Vinci in the first-round, she had another easy victory over Frenchwoman Pauline Parmeentier. In third-round, Coco dropped a set before outlasting Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and in fourth-round; she caused one of the tournament’s biggest upsets by defeating top-seeded defending champion Germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-2, 6-3. Her victim in the quarterfinal was no.7 seeded Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. That brought her against Venus Williams in the semifinal. Venus herself had a dream outing at Melbourne this year as she kept beating one player after another as she progressed through her rounds. The American never looked like losing and didn’t drop a set until she met Coco in the semifinals. The two Americans fought hard and Venus lost her first set of the tournament on tiebreak. By all accounts, Coco looked the favorite. But having come this far, Venus didn’t want to give in so easily. She kept herself pushing and Coco wilted under pressure. Venus’ vast experience made the essential difference as she converted five break chances as against Coco’s one from 13 opportunities. In the end, Venus won the match 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 and became the oldest Grand Slam finalist since 38-year old Martina Navratilova reached the 1994 Wimbledon final. Venus will now play the rematch of her 2003 Australian Open final with Serena, who stopped the magical run of Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Serena’s semifinal against Lucic-Baroni was a game of virtual no-contest. Incidentally, Serena had met Lucic 19 years ago during Wimbledon 1998. The 16-year old Serena overpowered Lucic in the second round but later, the Croat faded away from active tennis. On Thursday, Serena proved too strong for Lucic-Baroni as she broke the Croatian’s service in the third game and raced away to take the first set in 25 minutes. There was little Lucic-Baroni could do against the brilliant Serena as the 22-time Grand Slam champion broke her once again in the third game of the second set. After that, there was no stopping the American as wrapped up the proceedings with a 6-2, 6-1 victory in just 50 minutes.
Saturday’s women’s singles final will be a repeat of Serena Vs Venus in 2003, when the younger Serena won the first of her six Australian Open titles. On her current form, Serena should win her seventh title at Melbourne. But one never knows because the frame of mind on match-day will be crucial. Venus and Serena have also met each other in another Grand Slam final in 2009. That was at Wimbledon, where Serena had beaten Venus. If Serena wins at Melbourne on Saturday, she will inch one step closer to Australian legend Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam titles.
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