An Australian Open electrified by the revivals of seasoned champions will bathe in the warm glow of nostalgia on Saturday when the Williams sisters contest the women’s final at Rod Laver Arena.
Melbourne Park was where Venus and Serena Williams first clashed in a tour match in 1998 and nearly 20 years on, the Americans will add another chapter to tennis’s greatest sibling rivalry, reports Reuters.
In 1998, they were teenagers with cornrows and colored beads in their hair sharing in an awkward second round encounter that 17-year-old Venus won in two sets.
Venus hugged her sister, younger by a year, at the net and apologized for having to “take (her) out”.
On Saturday, 35-year-old Serena will bid for a record 23rd grand slam title in the professional era while Venus will strive for her eighth, and first in almost nine years.
Serena drew level with Germany’s Steffi Graff on 22 when she claimed her seventh Wimbledon title last year but her crowning moment was delayed when, as top seed, she was upset in the U.S. Open semi-finals by Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Serena no longer cares to talk about the record and stiffened when asked about it after her semi-final victory over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, as if the weight of such an achievement might prove too heavy.
But a seventh title at Melbourne Park would add further credit to Serena’s claim as the greatest of all time, despite being one short of Australia’s Margaret Court, whose 24 major titles were split between the amateur and professional eras.
For 13th seed Venus, her first grand slam final in eight years is already a stunning victory of perseverance in the face of her struggles to manage Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain.
Both players stormed into the semi-finals without a set dropped.
However, where Serena romped into the final with a 50-minute demolition of Lucic-Baroni, Venus needed to summon her peerless experience to fend off feisty fellow American Coco Vandeweghe in three sets.
Saturday’s final will be the Williams sisters ninth at a grand slam and their first since Wimbledon in 2009, where Serena won in two sets.