MELBOURNE: History beckons for Serena Williams at the Australian Open on Saturday as she targets a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title — with her sister, Venus, standing in the way.
It will be the 29th major final for Serena since making her Grand Slam debut in Australia in 1998, and she powered through to the decider without dropping a set.
Much less predictably, her elder sister will be on the other side of the net, searching for her first Grand Slam crown in nine long years since Wimbledon in 2008.
A seventh Melbourne triumph for Serena will finally push her past Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 major titles, with only Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 still to beat.
“It would mean a lot to me,” said the second seed, who also stands to reclaim the world number one ranking from Angelique Kerber. “I wouldn’t know what to do actually. I’m still taking it one point at a time.”
Regardless of what is on the line, it will a special occasion for Serena as she is unexpectedly facing Venus, whom few had tipped to reach the final aged 36 and after years of illness and injury problems.
“It’s the one time that I really genuinely feel like no matter what happens, I can’t lose, she can’t lose,” Serena, 35, said of the all-Williams encounter.
They are each other’s greatest rivals, playing 27 times in their long careers, including in eight Grand Slam finals. Serena holds a 6-2 edge in the major deciders, with a 16-11 win-loss record overall.
Venus, who has won seven Grand Slam finals and lost another seven, has become the Australian Open’s oldest finalist in the Open era as she attempts to crash her sibling’s party.
“Honestly I probably just need to continue playing as I’m playing. I’m not playing badly,” said Venus.
“Okay, it won’t be an easy match. You have to control yourself, then you also have to hopefully put your opponent in a box.”
Seeded 13, Venus now holds the record for the longest wait between major finals, at seven-and-a-half years since her last appearance at Wimbledon in 2009.
Following them on court will be the men’s doubles final, where American veterans Bob and Mike Bryan play Finland’s Henri Kontinen and Australia’s John Peers.