Serena Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title, moving her clear of Steffi Graf, with a 6-4 6-4 win over sister Venus in the final of the Australian Open.
The younger Williams struggled in the opening set with her serve as the two sisters traded breaks, but she came through strongly in the second to win her seventh title in Australian and reclaim the world number one status from Angelique Kerber.
The only person to win more Grand Slam titles than Serena is Margaret Court, who with 24 to her name is now tantalisingly within reach for the woman widely regarded as the greatest to ever play the game; at 35, she is also the oldest ever winner of a Grand Slam in the open era.
Venus missed the chance to win her eighth Grand Slam title and first in Australia, but her stirring run to the final was still one of the stories of the tournament. Serena paid tribute to her sister after clinching the win:
” I want to take this moment to congratulate Venus. She is an amazing person. I wouldn’t even be at one (Grand Slam) without her. She is my inspiration and the reason I am standing here today and the reason the Williams sisters exist. She deserves an incredible amount of applause. She has made an amazing comeback.”
Venus’s runner-up speech was gracious and touching as she hailed her younger sibling, and hinted that at 36, she is not done yet with the Australian Open.
” I’m so happy to play in front of you all tonight. Thank you to my team. I love you guys. Serena Williams… that’s my little sister guys. Congratulations on No 23. I’ve been there right with you. Some of them I lost against you. That’s weird but it’s true. Your wins have always been my wins. Every time I couldn’t be there or didn’t get there, you were there. I’m enormously proud of you and you mean the world to me. God-willing I’d love to come back. Thank you for all the love.”
It was a tense start and neither player was able to hold serve until Venus took the fifth game. Serena was the worst afflicted by the nerves, and she smashed her racket in a rage in just the third game after she slipped behind the baseline when chasing down a ball. She double-faulted three times to be broken a second time, causing a gasp from the crowd.
But galvanised by her serve, Serena soon settled and the blistering groundstrokes from the baseline began to find their mark as she surged to a 5-3 lead before sealing the set by thumping a pair of aces. With Serena renowned as one of the best front-runners in the game, Venus showed her readiness to scrap, and she saved three break points to hold in the third game. But she was never on safe ground, with Serena feasting on her second serve.
Serena pounced in the seventh game, firing a searing backhand return to break and served out to love to come within a game of the title.
Having dragged Serena to 15-30 at 5-4 on her serve, Venus dropped her racket in despair as she hammered a forehand into the net to give up match point.
Serena needed no further reason and after a furious exchange of shots, she charged in to the net swinging to claim yet another major title.