Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Williams faces Williams in Australia

AGE WINS OUT:Venus and Serena — aged 36 and 35 respectively — are to play today, while the 35-year-old Roger Federer defeated his younger rival Stan Wawrinka

AP, MELBOURNE, Australia

Serena Williams, right, and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni embrace after their women’s singles semi-final at the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Serena Williams is one win away from a record 23rd Grand Slam title after setting up an all-Williams final at the Australian Open.

Now the only person standing in her way is her older sister, Venus.

No. 2-ranked Serena, a six-time Australian Open winner, overwhelmed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2, 6-1 in just 50 minutes in the second of women’s semi-finals yesterday after Venus Williams beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3.

“She’s my toughest opponent — nobody has ever beaten me as much as Venus has,” Serena said. “I just feel like no matter what happens, we’ve won.”

“She’s been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot. To see her do so well it’s great. I look forward to it — a Williams is going to win this tournament,” she said.

Thirty-six-year-old Venus is 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 and described it as a “battle royale.”

She tossed her racket after clinching the 2 hour, 26 minute semi-final on her fourth match point and put her hands up to her face, almost in disbelief, before crossing her arms over her heart.

She then did a stylish pirouette on the court, smiling broadly, as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Venus has overcome an energy-sapping illness and is playing her best tennis since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011.

“Everyone has their moment in the sun,” she said. “Maybe mine has gone on a while. I’d like to keep that going. I’ve got nothing else to do so let’s keep it going.”

Serena’s celebration was more subdued after her lopsided win over 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni, who was playing her first semi-final at a major since Wimbledon in 1999. Of all the comeback stories in the tournament — and there are plenty, including Roger Federer’s return from six months on the sidelines to reach the men’s final — Lucic-Baroni’s return to the top level after so much time struggling out of the game has captured the most heartfelt attention.

Even Serena, who last played the Croatian in 1998, said Lucic-Baroni was an inspiration.

Lucic-Baroni took a selfie with her cell phone on the court before waving and leaving Rod Laver Arena.

Serena did not get to watch much of her sister’s match, but she knew the result before she went out to play.

“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.”

Venus 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 has also lost six of the eight Grand Slam finals she has played against her younger sister and is 11-16 in their career meeting at tour level.

Asked what it will take to win the final, Venus said: “Honestly, I probably just need to continue playing like I’m playing. I haven’t played badly.”

“I lost a set today. I was not happy about it, but my opponent deserved that set. So what else could I do? Try to get the next two,” she said.

Against her sister, she said: “I will try to do the same.”

Venus is the oldest player to reach a women’s major final since Martina Navratilova, then 37 and 258 days, at Wimbledon in 1994.

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