| Serena Williams of the US with the winnerís trophy in Melbourne on Saturday. (AFP)
Melbourne, Jan. 25: For Serena Williams, the competition has moved off the court and transferred to the dry pages of history. The new challenges do not come from the likes of her older sister, Venus, but in pursuing legendary figures such as Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.
Venus was the final obstacle standing between Serena and the Serena Slam, winning four consecutive Grand Slam titles. After two hours 22 minutes, the long journey, the fulfillment of Serenaís vision culminated Saturday at the Australian Open. The top-seeded Serena defeated No. 2 Venus, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4, in the final, in what was the best final between the sisters in Grand Slams.
At 21, Serena, who won her first Australian Open title, joined Graf and Martina Navratilova as winners of non-calendar year Grand Slams, as her streak started at the French Open last year. Her opposition in the four Slam finals was Venus. And, looking ahead, this was the first step of another Slam, one in the same calendar year, achieved by Connolly, Court and Graf.
ďI just canít believe I can now be compared to these women because theyíre such greats,Ē Serena said. ďAnd Iíve really been able to look up to them. I donít know if Iíll ever accomplish everything that they have, but just to even be in that category of winning four in a row, for me, itís really amazing.
ďAs a kid, I always dreamt of it, and Iíve always wanted to do it.Ē
Serena increased her total of Slam titles to five and leads her head-to-head series with Venus, 6-5. This was where their first match as professionals took place. The Australian Open was Serenaís first Grand Slam, and she lost to Venus in the second round in 1998. So many times in their early rivalry, Venus was the one who had to comfort her younger sister, who was bitterly disappointed after losing.
In an odd twist, Venus was doing the consoling again. Serena had a subdued celebration after Venusí forehand sailed out on match point, hugging her sister and blowing kisses to the crowd. During the victory ceremony, Serena grew emotional.
ďI never get choked up, never, but Iím really emotional right now,Ē Serena said, tears in her eyes.
She thanked her parents and stepped away, and Venus looked concerned. In her speech, Venus dedicated her appearance in the final to her grandmother, who passed away recently. Venus had been playing in her first Australian Open final and looked heartened that she managed to make it competitive. In her previous four matches against Serena, she had not been able to win a set.
Venus served bigger, hitting seven aces and coming up with service winners on big points. Her fastest serve was 121 miles per hour. The fighting spirit Serena has displayed this tournament was in evidence. When her serve was broken at 4-4 in the first set, she sent her racket flying toward her equipment bag on the sideline.
Serena took the first-set tiebreaker, 7-4, breaking down Venusí forehand. The second set went to Venus, 6-3, the first one she had been able to win against Serena since the 2001 US Open final, which Venus won in straight sets.
The third set held great promise, had the expected dramatic moments, but never turned into a classic.