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Thursday, 26 January 2017 09:38 AM GMT
Australian Open Day 11: Serena, Venus take sister act to final rounds up the action from Day 11 at the Australian Open. READ MORE

For the first time since 2009 – and the first time in Melbourne since 2003 – Serena Williams and Venus Williams will contest a Grand Slam final.

Top seed Serena crushed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2, 6-1 to move within one win of a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title while Venus, seeded 13th, held off another American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3. Here’s how they managed it.

Ruthless Serena 

Ever since the tournament began, Willams has been talking about how relaxed she feels, how everything she achieves here and the rest of this year is a bonus. It’s a stark contrast to the stress she showed throughout 2016, when she somehow managed to win Wimbledon but otherwise fell short in the Grand Slams (two runners-up finishes and a semi-final loss)

By her own ridiculously high standards the 35-year-old was “average” but in Melbourne this year, she has been virtually faultless and she never allowed Lucic-Baroni a sniff.

The story of Lucic-Baroni’s run to the semi-finals has been the feelgood story of the tournament, overcoming serious adversity in her personal life to return to the Tour and then, 18 years after she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, making it to the last four of a Grand Slam again.

The pair embraced warmly at the end and Williams paid tribute to her opponent’s achievements. “She’s an inspiration to me and she really deserves all the credit today,” she said.

“I am so honoured to play her, she played so well, to go this far after everything she’s gone through, she inspires me and I just wanted to give her such congratulations.”

The 34-year-old Croatian started well but once Williams had broken serve for 2-1, there was no coming back. The American is into her 29th Grand Slam final and if she beats Venus Williams in the final, she will overtake Steffi Graf with an Open-era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

Joyous Venus

When Williams woke up on Thursday morning and saw the flags flapping strongly in the breeze, she may just have breathed a sense of relief.

Vandeweghe has been playing at full throttle throughout the fortnight – blowing defending champion Angelique Kerber and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza off the court with groundstrokes more like thunderbolts.

But the breeze meant that timing those heavy blows was more difficult, but in her first Grand Slam semi-final, Vandeweghe still came out firing, blasting 37 winners in all.

When she pinched the first set on the tiebreak, 7-3, a first final looked a real possibility. But Venus bounced back strongly, soaking up her power and giving it back to her. It took two hours, 26 minutes for her to get over the line but she is into her 15th Grand Slam final and her first since 2009.

At the age of 36, having battled for several years with Sjogren’s syndrome – an energy-sapping disease – it was a sweet moment.

“(It was) just joy,” she said. “It was a heartfelt match. If the match is 6-2, 6-2, the moment is kind of clear that it's going to happen. But she played so well.

"There was never a moment where she wasn't just hitting the ball amazing and striking the ball with just such precision. It's always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire.”

And so to the final – the 28th meeting between the sisters – and ninth Grand Slam final clash. It promises to be a classic. And as Serena said: “A Williams is going to win the title.”

Oldies but goodies

The Bryan brothers may be 38 but the American twins are one win away from their seventh Australian Open title.

Bob and Mike Bryan beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Pablo Carrena-Busta of Spain 7-6, 6-3 and will now play Australian John Peers and Henri Kontinen of Finland, who saw off the young Australian pair of Andrew Whittington and Marc Polmans.

Moment of the day

Lucic-Baroni takes a selfie with the crowd in the background to commemorate her stunning fortnight.

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