IN PICS: Serena beats Venus to make Grand Slam history

Sport360 staff 28/01/2017

The younger of the two siblings, Serena Williams beat sister Venus in straight sets to win the Australian Open 2017 crown and an Open Era record 23rd Grand Slam title.

Serena cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Venus, to register her seventh Australian Open title win that takes her past Steffi Graf’s previous Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam wins.

It was the ninth time the Williams sisters competed in a Grand Slam final and the game began rather unusually, as the first four games of the first set were all breaks.

Serena eventually held serve and clinched a 6-4 first set win that she never looked back from.

The second set began with both holding serves, until Venus’ unforced errors and Serena’s impressive performance completed the victory in one hour and 22 minutes.

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#360view: Savour these clashes as tennis’ future looks bleak

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Venus versus Serena. Nadal versus Federer. The two Aus- tralian Open singles finals will feature the two most defining rivalries in modern tennis. Individually, each one of the four finalists is an institution.

They’ve all carved their names in sporting history in their own way and will leave a lasting legacy that will forever transcend tennis.

Venus Williams with her pioneering triumphs and fight for equal pay; Serena Williams with her endless ability to smash records, longevity and dominance; Roger Federer with his balletic moves, unrivalled numbers, and deft touch; Rafael Nadal with his warrior-like grit and odds-defying victories.

There is not enough space or time to discuss these super-humans at length. On Saturday Venus, 36, and Serena, 35, square off for a 28th time and tomorrow Federer, 35, and Nadal, 30, will contest their 35th showdown.

It is the first time in the Open era that all four grand slam singles finalists belong to the 30-and-over club. The world is rejoicing over this vintage finals line-up and there are plenty of reasons why.

These two matches don’t just gratify the nostalgics out there, they are giving us a chance to witness these rivalries for what could be one last time before one or more of these veterans choose to hang up their racquets.

This particular finals combination has not been seen at a grand slam since Wimbledon 2008 and we don’t know if we’ll ever see it again.

“Probably is a unique situation. Let’s enjoy this because probably will not happen again,” was Nadal’s verdict on Friday when asked about the finals line-up. But beyond this idea of holding onto these legends while we still can, it is the manner in which they’ve reached this stage at a major that is most inspiring.

Think of what Venus, Serena, Federer and Nadal have all had to overcome to get to this point. Autoimmune diseases, pulmonary embolisms, knee injuries, wrist problems, back issues, months away from the court, and the basic reality of ageing – none of these factors have stopped this magical quartet.

Venus, an entrepreneur who has a business degree, explains it all so eloquently and pragmatically.

“I think people realise this is an amazing job, so it’s best to keep it,” said the seven-time major champion.

“I think this generation is going to inspire the rest of the generations to play a schedule that’s achievable, sustainable, and that you can play grand slam tennis for a long time. This is beautiful for the game because it will be able to retain its stars for a long time, which is a great business model.”

The tennis authorities are undoubtedly grateful for the longevity of these superstars, and Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is probably over the moon with this year’s scenario but a glaring reality remains: Where is the younger generation that is meant to carry the sport when these icons retire?

This fortnight in Melbourne, Federer took out Kei Nishikori, who at 27, is yet to win a Masters 1000 title, let alone a major, while Nadal beat the highly-touted German teenager Sascha Zverev, the injury-prone dangerman Milos Raonic, 26, and the uber-talented 25-year-old Grigor Dimitrov, who seems to be taking the scenic route to the top.

Old is still gold in tennis. The future? Not so shiny.

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Federer vs Nadal: Five of the rivalry's greatest matches

Sport360 staff 27/01/2017
Re-live these five classics.

It feels like we have gone back in time. Back to the future, in fact.

Before the tournament, the thought of Federer and Nadal locking horns for the 35th time in a showpiece Melbourne final would have been disregarded by most (Nadal lead’s their career head-to-head 23-11).

But on Sunday, we will see the two legends face-off once more in what is possibly one of the biggest clashes between the two, ever, period.

For Nadal, who downed Federer in the 2009 Aussie Open final, it will be his 21st Grand Slam final and the Swiss’s 28th, with the Spaniard leading Federer 6-2 in their major final meetings.

And with plenty of match action to choose from, Sport360 looks back at their five greatest battles:

5. 2005 ATP Masters Series Miami final: Federer def Nadal 2-6 6-7(4) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-1

Federer comes from two sets down to win this Miami epic in three hours and 42 minutes.

4. 2007 Wimbledon final: Federer def Nadal 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2

The Swiss equalled Bjorn Borg’s feat of winning five consecutive SW19 crowns and proved he is still the master on grass.

3. 2006 ATP Masters Series Rome final: Nadal def Federer 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5)

Nadal really cemented his dominance over Federer on clay with this impressive win.

2. Australian Open 2009 final: Nadal def Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2

The memory of the Swiss crying during the post-match presentation will live on forever.

“God, it’s killing me,” – that was Federer’s remarks after losing a third major final in four against the Spaniard.

1. Wimbledon 2008 final: Nadal def Federer 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(8) 9-7

Most people call this the greatest match of all time. And the final, which ended in near darkness, certainly deserves that accolade.

Nadal has been out of the Grand Slam limelight since his last title success at Roland Garros in 2014, as injuries sidetracked his glorious career.

The 30-year-old is bidding to win his second Australian Open title and become the first man in the Open Era -and only the third man in history to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.

Nadal and Dimitrov played each other to a standstill in Friday’s epic, with two tiebreakers going either way in a semi-final that ran well past midnight local time.

Federer, who beat fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in Thursday’s first semi-final, was watching on with relish as his rival in Sunday’s final was taken the distance in a draining physical battle.

The last time both men’s semi-finals went to five sets at any Slam was at Roland Garros in 2009, when Federer beat Juan Martin del Potro and Robin Soderling defeated Fernando Gonzalez.

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