The Australian Open semifinals saw surprise semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe facing off against veteran seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams for a spot in the final, with Williams being the heavy favorite having not lost a set in her path to the semifinals. Despite losing the first set, Williams put in a clinical serving display in the last two sets to return to the final for the first time since 2003, and would look to defeat her sister Serena Williams, who would be going for her record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title, for her first ever Australian Open title at the age of 36.
Vandeweghe steals the first set
It was an erratic start for both players as they started the match with three consecutive unforced errors in the first few points of the match. The first winner of the match came from the 25-year-old American, who hit a well-angled forehand winner to bring up a break point opportunity in just the opening game of the match. Vandeweghe had to wait until her fourth break point until she managed to capture the break as Williams’ wobbly backhand errors gave her the worst possible start to the match.
Serving some strong serves in, Vandeweghe looked to consolidate the break of serve as she held a game point after hitting an ace at 30-30. Crumbling to the pressure in her first ever Grand Slam semifinal, Vandeweghe threw in a double fault on break point to gift the advantage straight back. There was finally a hold of serve in the match as Williams held her serve to love with some consistent and solid groundstrokes, taking the lead for the first time in the match.
The next real chance to break serve was at 2-3 when Williams managed to get to deuce in Vandeweghe’s service game, but failed to earn a break point which allowed her younger compatriot to hold onto her service game. With both players being known for their strong and solid serves, they strolled through the rest of their service games in the set to see it being extended to a tiebreak to decide the winner. Williams had an early advantage in the tiebreak as she led 2-1 with a mini break in her hands, looking poised to be halfway from the final berth.
With no pressure given to her, Vandeweghe started to hit freely and jumped out to a 6-2 lead, winning five points in a row. Despite saving a set point, Williams eventually lost the set on a backhand unforced error after exactly one hour of powerful tennis.
Williams fights back
Vandeweghe had the perfect start to the second set as she earned an encouraging service hold to look even more determined for her first ever Grand Slam final appearance. Williams then got a comfortable service hold of her own, before making the first breakthrough when winning her eighth straight point in the set to clinch a service break to love, after a massive amount of four consecutive unforced errors cost Vandeweghe greatly. Williams had to fend off two break points to consolidate the break of service, having to hold her serve the toughest way possible.
Back to back double faults, something rare coming from Vandeweghe, gave Williams yet another break of service to take a huge lead in the set and look to level the match. The veteran went even closer to leveling the match as she had to carve out a tough service hold having saved a total of four break points to extend her lead to 5-1.
Williams saved yet another break point in her next service game to clinch the set 6-2 as she hit back to back aces to level the match after 36 minutes of play.
Williams closes out the win
Nerves seemed to get to Vandeweghe as she hit a break point in the most crucial moment at deuce in the opening game of the final set, and eventually allowing Williams to break serve for the fourth time in the match to have the early advantage in the deciding set. The seven-time Grand Slam champion then came from 15-40 down to gain a pivotal service hold which allowed her to consolidate the break of serve and affirm her lead.
Vandeweghe finally got onto the scoreboard in the final set as she held her serve comfortably to stay in the match and prevent Williams from running away with the match. The elder of the Williams sisters eventually got one game away from the win and the Australian Open final, and Vandeweghe got nervous which caused her serve to crumble at the wrong moments as she was broken while serving to stay in the match, gifting Williams the win after 2 hours and 25 minutes.
Next up for Williams: The Final
The first Grand Slam final of the year would be closely-contested between the two legendary sisters in Venus Williams and Serena Williams, where Venus would be going for her first ever title here in Melbourne, and Serena would be going for her 23rd Grand Slam title which would allow herself to take the record of winning the most number of Grand Slam titles won alone.