MELBOURNE • Venus Williams became the oldest Australian Open singles finalist of the Open era after she held off her powerful 25-year-old American compatriot CoCo Vandeweghe in a three-set semi-final full of winners, errors and intensity yesterday.
It was a bravura performance - reminiscent of her best tennis earlier in her career - and Saturday's final will also be a flashback, because her opponent will be her younger sister Serena.
The world No. 2 advanced with a much more one-sided 6-2, 6-1 victory in Thursday's second semi-final over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, an unseeded 34-year-old Croatian ranked 79th.
Venus, the enduring 36-year-old star, was the more consistent, even-tempered and opportunistic player in her 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3 victory. She converted five of nine break points against the big-serving Vandeweghe, who converted just one of 13.
Her celebrations are usually quite understated but the seven-time Grand Slam champion betrayed her delight by bouncing around the court before treating the crowd to an elaborate take on her traditional victory twirl.
"That moment was just joy," Venus 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."
Melbourne Park Snippets
STAT OF THE DAY
The year Venus Williams last appeared in a Grand Slam final. She lost in straight sets to her sister Serena at Wimbledon.
DAY 11 RESULTS
Men's singles s-finals
Roger Federer (Sui) bt Stan Wawrinka (Sui)
7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3.
Women's singles s-finals
Venus Williams (USA) bt Coco Vandeweghe (USA)
6-7 (3-7) 6-2 6-3,
Serena Williams (USA) bt Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Cro)
RAW DRAMA HAS GREATEST APPEAL
I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there is no do-over, there's no retake, there is no voice-over. It's triumph and disaster witnessed in real time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can't fake it. You can't. It's either you do it or you don't.
VENUS WILLIAMS, on the inspirational qualities of sport.
She has lost six of the eight meetings with her sister in Slam finals, including her only previous trip to the title decider in Melbourne back in 2003.
"It would be beautiful," Venus said of the chance to win her first Slam since she won her fifth Wimbledon crown in 2008.
"Clearly these matches are challenging, physically, mentally, all of that. It's a challenge. But I'm up for the challenge.
"If I'm here, that's why I'm here. I'm not just here to hang out halfway around the world. This is a long way to come for a hangout session."
Serena, 35, said she did not watch her sister's match but was well aware of the result before she walked on court.
"She's my toughest opponent. No one has ever beaten me as much as Venus has. She has a pretty good record against me, and we have a good record against each other.
"I just feel like, no matter what happens, we've won. She's been through a lot, and I've been through a lot. And to see her come back and do so well is great."
She was ruthless in swatting aside Lucic-Baroni in just 50 minutes and stayed on track for a seventh Australian title which would take her past Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Major wins.
She has refused to talk about the possibility of finally surpassing the German, but now has a golden chance of further cementing her place in history.
Winning the title would also mean a return to world No. 1, snatching the crown back after Angelique Kerber deposed her last year.
All-Williams finals in major tournaments were once a tennis staple, but this will be the first since Wimbledon in 2009 when Serena defeated Venus in what was also Venus' last appearance in a Slam final.
Serena said: "For us both to be in the final is the biggest dream come true... I just feel like no matter what's happened we've both won.
"It is definitely 100 per cent the best-case scenario that I could have ever dreamt of."
She added: "A Williams is going to win the tournament."
NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE