Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Serena Beats Venus for Open-Era Record 23rd Grand Slam Title, Returns to No. 1
Once again, Little Sister took down Big Sister.
In the latest meeting between the Williams siblings, Serena beat her older sister Venus, 6-4, 6-4, to win the Australian Open championship, Serena’s seventh title Down Under and her Open-Era record 23rd major crown.
Serena, 35, surpassed Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam titles in the Open Era and now trails only Margaret Court’s 24 for most all-time among men or women. She could tie and go ahead of Court later in 2017. Serena also became the oldest woman ever to win a Grand Slam title.
“Serena Williams, that’s my little sister, guys,” Venus told the crowd at Melbourne Park. “Congratulations, Serena, on No. 23. I have been right there with you. Some of them I’ve lost against you.
“I’m enormously proud of you, you mean the world to me.”
In improving to 17-11 against her older sister and 23-6 in Slam finals, Serena also moved back into the No. 1 world ranking.
“I really would like to take this moment to congratulate Venus,” Serena said after accepting the trophy. “She’s an amazing person. There’s no way I would be at 23 without her. There’s no way I would be at one without her. There’s no way I would have anything without her. She’s my inspiration. She’s the only reason I’m standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist so thank you Venus for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard this week. Every time you won I felt like I gotta win, too, so thank you so much.”
The All-Williams championship was the first act in the final weekend of this throwback Australian Open. Longtime rivals Roger Federer, 35, and Rafael Nadal, 30, will meet for the 35th time in the men’s final at 3 a.m. on Sunday.
The four finalists have now won a combined 61 Grand Slam titles and are a combined 136 years old.
Serena broke Venus in the seventh game of the second set with a vicious two-handed backhand winner off a second serve to go up 4-3.
Upon winning the match with a forehand winner up the line, Serena briefly fell to the ground and then the two sisters hugged at the net.
The 36-year-old Venus Williams was back in a Grand Slam final for the first time since Wimbledon in 2009 and her first in Australia since 2003, when she lost the only previous all-Williams final at Melbourne Park.
Venus Williams has overcome an energy-sapping illness and is playing her best tennis since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011. She is even talking about playing until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, when she would be 40.
“She’s made an amazing comeback, and I definitely think she’ll be standing here next year,” Serena said. “And I don’t like the word comeback, she’s never left. She’s been such a great champion.”
Venus Williams has won seven major titles, but none since Wimbledon in 2008. Her gap between major finals is the longest for any player in the Open era. She’s now lost seven of the nine Grand Slam finals she’s played against her younger sister.
Venus Williams was the oldest player to reach a women’s major final since Martina Navratilova, then 37 and 258 days, at Wimbledon in 1994.
“Obviously I was really proud of Venus — a total inspiration, my big sister,” Serena said. “She’s basically my world and my life. She means everything to me. I was so happy for her. For us both to be in the final is the biggest dream come true for us.”
(The AP contributed)
Photo: Tennis Channel
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.