MELBOURNE, Australia — The sibling rivalry, at least on the tennis tour, started at the Australian Open for the Williams sisters.
It was 1998, and older sister Venus beat younger sister Serena 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 in a second-round match. Though it would be tempting to label their Australian Open final Saturday (3 a.m., ESPN) as a full-circle moment and to speculate that it might be their last meeting at this late a stage of a Grand Slam tournament, it seems best to resist the temptation.
The Williamses have taught us a lot about the limits of conventional tennis wisdom through the years. And so, even with Serena at 35 and Venus 36, it is wise to avoid fencing them in again after they have run roughshod over so many other preconceptions.
Thursday, Venus, seeded 13th, had to scrap to win 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3 against powerful unseeded American CoCo Vandeweghe, and Serena, seeded second, cruised past unseeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-2, 6-1.
Serena goes for her 23rd major singles title, which would break her tie with Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era (from 1968). This is Venus' first major singles final since she lost to Serena at Wimbledon 2009.
"When I'm playing on the court with (Serena), I think I'm playing the best competitor in the game," Venus said. "I don't think I'm chump change either, you know. I can compete against any odds."
Federer stuns himself: Having not played a competitive tournament since Wimbledon last year because of knee surgery, 17th-seeded Roger Federer, 35, completed an improbable run to the final with a 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 Stan Wawrinka. He faces the winner of the Rafael Nadal-Grigor Dimitrov semifinal. "I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I was coming this far," said Federer, a 17-time major champion who Sunday goes for his first major title since Wimbledon 2012.