by Kevin Craig
Venus Williams defeated Coco Vandeweghe in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3, to help set up an all-Williams final. Venus will take on sister Serena in the final on Saturday after she easily knocked out Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets.
“It’s always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire,” Venus said. “It means so much.”
The 36-year old Venus will take on Serena for the 28th time, and the ninth time in a major final. Serena currently leads in both departments, 16-11 overall and 6-2 in major finals. Venus will be going for her eighth major title and first since 2008, while Serena will be looking for her 23rd.
“She’s basically my world and my life and she means everything to me. I couldn’t be happier with these results, and for us both to be in the final is the biggest dream come true for us,” Serena said.
Against Vandeweghe, Venus got off to a bit of a slow start, as she faced four break points in her opening service game. She could only save the first three before getting broken, but was able to bounce back right away and break the big-hitting American. From there, each play settled into the match and found their rhythms, as no more break points were seen in the rest of the set.
In the first set tiebreak, the returner won the first five points, allowing Vandeweghe to take a 3-2 mini-break lead. The 25-year old American playing in her first major semifinal would eventually take the tiebreak 7-3, thanks to a five-point run.
“I’m versatile. I can adjust. I can do what I need to do to win a match,” Venus said. Adjust is exactly what she did as the rest of the match was a completely different story than the first set.
Venus battled back straight away with a no-nonsense mindset in the second set. Vandeweghe’s level of play that had been so impressive the entire tournament finally dropped, and Venus was able to break her twice in the set. Added onto the two breaks, Venus was able to save eight break points in the second set, allowing her to even up the match and take it to a decider.
In the third, Venus was once again able to break early to apply some scoreboard pressure on Vandeweghe. Once again, Vandeweghe had difficulty converting on Venus’ serve, as she missed out on two break points in her first service game. From there, Vandeweghe only won more than one point in a Venus service game once in three tries.
In the final game of the match, with Vandeweghe serving at 5-3, Venus had a look at four break points and the nerves in the building increased with every one that Vandeweghe saved. On the fourth attempt, though, Vandeweghe sent a backhand long and Venus had finally won and reached the Australian Open final.
Venus and Serena will meet in the final on Saturday and it will be one of the most anticipated matches on the women’s tour in a very long time.
“I just feel like no matter what happens, we’ve won. She’s been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot. A Williams is going to win the tournament,” Serena said.