Australian Open Women’s Final. 8AM. British Eurosport
The first Grand Slam of 2017 has certainly delivered a few surprises over the past fortnight, not least in the Women’s draw as the Williams sisters prepare to meet on the biggest stage for the first time since Wimbledon 2009.
While Serena was expected to reach the final stages, older sister Venus has enjoyed a magical journey to the final, playing arguably her finest tennis of the decade. Whichever way this final goes, the siblings will have a combined tally of 30 individual Grand Slam titles, and it could be one of the most memorable.
With a combined age of 2017, there’s a strong chance this will be their last ever clash on such a huge stage. Soak it in; it could be a classic.
Venus Turning Back The Years
After eight years without a singles Grand Slam title, the elder Williams sister would have been forgiven for thinking her tally would stop at seven. However, the 13th seed is now just two sets away from lifting her first ever Australian crown – 14 years after losing her only other final appearance, to Serena.
While many fancied Venus to reach the second week following a favourable draw, she did well to coast past Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the last eight.
The 36-year-old saved her best performance en route to the final for the last four clash against compatriot Coco Vandeweghe, who had beaten world number one Angelique Kerber as well as Garbine Muguruza to reach the semi-final. Having lost the first set, Venus let her spirit and experience shine through as she booked her place in the final tennis fans have been wanting for years.
This has been a memorable tournament for one of the game’s all-time greats, and is a deserved reward after fighting back from the illness that disrupted her progress during the early part of the decade. Even Serena couldn’t begrudge her an eight Grand Slam title. Still, the younger sibling won’t make it easy.
Serena Gunning For History
Having lost her world number one crown, Serena has blitzed her way to the final without losing a single set. A win on Saturday morning wouldn’t only reaffirm her place as the queen of the current crop, but it would also make her an Open Era record-breaker too.
A seventh Australian Open title would hand the younger sibling a record 23rd singles crown. If that wasn’t a big enough incentive, making amends for last year’s final loss to Kerber certainly is.
Serena faced several potential banana skins in the form of Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova, and Johanna Konta but has never looked threatened. Fourth round opponent Barbora Strycova is the only one to put up any real resistance, and even she lost 7-5, 6-4. If the 2015 champion finds here form, another title should be in the bag.
After doing two Serena Slams in her career, could it be the start of winning all four titles in one year? On current form, you wouldn’t bet against it.
Venus Williams v Serena Williams Betting
Venus has enjoyed a magical run to the final, but the bookies don’t envisage an upset here. Unibet have made her the 4/1 underdog while Serena is 1/5 to create history.
While the overall head-to-head is relatively close at 16-11, Serena holds a 6-2 advantage in Grand Slam finals and will be expected to repeat her 2003 triumph in Melbourne.
If she hits top gear early on, a 2-0 victory is more than likely. In fact, we’re expecting her to win in straight sets without even needing a tie-break. At nearly even money, take under 20.5 games.
As tough and spirited as Venus is, it’s difficult to see her matching her sister. And Serena could set up an easy day’s work by setting her stool out.
There’s no time for sentiment at this stage, and we’re backing Serena to break the Venus serve at the first attempt – as well as hold her first service game.