Many would've predicted that Serena Williams would be contesting her 29th Grand Slam singles final at the Australian Open. However, hardly anyone would've predicted that Williams would be joined by her older sister Venus Williams in Saturday's final. It will be the ninth time that the two Williams sisters will compete in a Grand Slam singles final. Serena leads her sister 6-2 in Grand Slam finals, with their last meeting in a Slam final taking place at Wimbledon in 2009. At 35 and 36 respectively, the Williams sisters still have the hunger for tennis, and this final promises to be a special occasion.
Serena is gunning for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title, which will be an Open Era record and a chance to overtake Angelique Kerber as the world number once more. Moreover, Venus is going for her eighth Grand Slam singles title, and if she's victorious it will be her first Grand Slam title since defeating Serena at Wimbledon in 2008.
Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome in 2011, and she didn't reach the quarterfinals or better of a Grand Slam between 2011 and 2014. Moreover, since then she has reached the quarterfinals or better in Melbourne in two of the last three years. The semifinals of Wimbledon in 2016 and the US Open quarterfinals in 2015.
It must have been hard for Venus to watch her sister on the sidelines but she never gave up the hope of reaching the latter stages of Slams, and even winning another Grand Slam title. This final between the two sisters will take place in the Rod Laver Arena at 7:30 pm local time, a repeat of 2003 final in Melbourne, shall be a classic.
Serena Williams' route to the final
The six-time Australian Open champion knew that she had to play her best tennis from the start of the tournament, which has done the 35-year-old some good. The second seed has not dropped a set en route to the final for the second consecutive year. The American began her quest for a seventh title Down Under against former world number seven Belinda Bencic. Williams eased past Bencic, 6-4, 6-3, and she defeated former world number five Lucie Safarova in their first meeting since the French Open final in 2015, 6-3, 6-4.
Serena thrashed compatriot Nicole Gibbs, 6-1, 6-3 in the third round, and in the fourth round, Serena was up against 16th seed Barbora Strycova. Strycova played a very good match but was unable to beat the former world number one, losing, 7-5, 6-4 advancing to her 11th quarterfinals in Melbourne. In the quarterfinals, Serena eased past ninth seed Johanna Konta, and the Brit was on a nine-match winning streak and was one of the favorites for the title. In the semifinals, Serena was competing against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who she hadn't played since Wimbledon in 1998, and the Croat's fairytale run was ended 6-2, 6-1 by Serena, who remains unbeaten in Australian Open semifinals, stretching that run to 8-0, advancing to her eighth final Down Under.
Venus Williams' route to the final
The seven-time Grand Slam champion took advantage of a draw that fell apart earlier. Her projected fourth round opponent, the fourth seed Simona Halep fell by the wayside in the first round for the second consecutive year. The other seeds in her section of the draw were 19th seed Kiki Bertens, who also lost in the first round and 29th seed Monica Puig who fell in round two. Venus overcame Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova in two tights, 7-6(5), 7-5, and the Ukranian took Venus to three sets in the first round of the US Open last year. In the second round, Venus' good form continued as she ousted Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele, 6-3, 6-2. Venus only dropped one game in her third round match with China's Duan Yingying, 6-1, 6-0. In the fourth round, Venus edged past German qualifier, Mona Barthel, 6-3, 7-5 advancing to her ninth quarterfinals in Melbourne.
The former world number one's toughest test was 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the last eight at all four Grand Slams. Venus added her name to the list of people along with her sister Serena twice and Francesca Schiavone who have beaten the Russian in Slam quarterfinals. Venus recorded a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over the hard-hitting Russian despite being a break down in both sets. In her third Australian Open semifinal and first since reaching the final in 2003, Williams was up against her compatriot Coco Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe was in a rich vein of form as she defeated former Grand Slam finalists Roberta Vinci and Eugenie Bouchard, defending champion and world number one Angelique Kerber in the fourth round and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza to reach her first Slam semifinals. Despite being a set down, the 13th seed recovered to beat her compatriot, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 and reach her 15th Grand Slam singles final, the first since Wimbledon in 2009 and second Australian Open final.
The Williams sisters have met on 27 occasions, and Serena leads 16-11 in their head-to-head encounters. Serena also leads 9-8 on hard courts, 2-1 on clay courts, 4-2 on grass and 1-0 on the carpet. The second seed also leads 9-5 in their Grand Slam meetings, 6-2 in Grand Slam finals, 2-1 in WTA finals matches and 8-3 in finals overall.
The duo met for the first time in the second round of the Australian Open in 1998 when they were both 16 and 17 respectively, Venus was victorious, 7-6 (4), 6-1. Venus would win their next two meetings in the quarterfinals in Rome in straight sets in 1998 and in the final of the Miami Open in 1999 in three sets. However, Serena would gain her first victory over her sister in the final of the Grand Slam Cup, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in 1999.
The pair would meet for the first time in the new millennium in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2000, Venus was victorious, 6-2, 7-6, en route to winning her first Grand Slam singles title. Furthermore, Venus would continue her dominance over Serena by defeating her sister in their first Grand Slam final meeting at the US Open in 2001, 6-2, 6-4. However, Serena would turn the tide in their rivalry by registering six consecutive victories over her sister.
In the semifinals of the Miami Open in 2002, Serena thrashed Venus, 6-2, 6-2. Their next five consecutive meetings would be in Grand Slam finals. Serena defeated her sister in straights sets in the French Open final in 2002 and ending her reign as the two-time defending champion at Wimbledon. Once again, the younger American would end her sister's reign as the two-time defending champion at the US Open in straight sets. 14 years ago at the Australian Open in 2003, Serena was victorious over Venus to win her fourth consecutive Grand Slam title, completing the "Serena Slam" in the process and the Career Grand Slam in the process.
Serena retained her Wimbledon title in 2003 by defeating Venus,4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to lead 7-5 in their head-to-head meetings at this point. Venus would level their rivalry by winning their next two meetings on hard courts in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open and fourth round of the US Open in 2005. The pair would meet four times in 2008 with Serena winning three of the four meetings. Serena won their first meeting in three years in the semifinals of Bangalore in three sets, and Venus would defeat Serena in their third final at SW19, 7-5, 6-4 in 2008, which would be her seventh and most recent Grand Slam singles title to date.
Serena would defeat Venus in two tight tiebreaks in the quarterfinals of the US Open en route to winning her third title at Flushing Meadows. The duo met at the WTA Championships with Serena dishing out a bagel, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0. The sisters met five times in 2009 with Serena leading 3-2, The second seed defeated Venus in the semifinals in Dubai in three sets, and Serena would win their meeting in Miami.
For the fourth time, they would meet in the final of Wimbledon and for the second time, Serena would end her sister's reign as the two-time defending champion, 7-6 (3), 6-2. Venus would beat her sister in the round-robin stage of the WTA Championships but Serena would regain her revenge in the final. The duo has met four times this decade with Serena thrashing Venus, 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals of Charleston in 2013. However, Venus would defeat her sister for the first time in almost four years at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-3.
Their two recent meetings were in the fourth round of Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the US Open in 2015, Serena came out on top on both occasions. Serena had a tough run to the title at SW19 in 2015 as she almost lost to Heather Watson in the third round, and she beat Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.
Who wins the Championship?
Serena will enter this match as the firm favorite, and the former world number one has a better serve, and her movement is better than her big sister's. However, Venus knows Serena's game better than anyone else, and she will be able to get under her skin. The seven-time Grand Slam champion is a fine returner, and she will be able to return some of her sister's big serves.
Venus' serve is more vulnerable than Serena's, and Serena will be looking to attack her sister's second serve. Furthermore, Serena will have more pressure in this match as she will be chasing her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. Furthermore, Venus has backed up her run to the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, which we were denied an all-Williams final as Angelique Kerber defeated Venus in straight sets in the last four, losing to Serena in the final.
This match will be emotionally invested, and both players have their own sets of fans. One thing that is certain on Saturday is that history will be made and once again a Williams will be a Grand Slam singles champion. It's a special Grand Slam weekend of tennis as fellow former world number ones Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be competing in the men's singles final. It is the first time that all four of these players will be playing in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2008.
Prediction: Serena in straight sets
Other VAVEL USA's writer's predictions
Pathik Gamana: Venus in straight sets
Ramona Toderas: Serena in straight sets
Jake Best: Serena in three sets
Noel Alberto: Serena in straight sets
Amy Stevenson: Serena in straight sets
Max Gao: Serena in straight sets
Thomas Cluck: Serena in three sets
Oliver Dickson Jefford: Serena in straight sets
Joshua Coase: Venus in three sets
Liliana Martinez: Serena in three sets
Don Han: Serena in straight sets
Joely Cook: Serena in straight sets