Serena hobbles, Venus sails into final

Venus Williams to clash with sister Serena in the Australian Open final.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Serena Williams refused to let Kim Clijsters beat her twice in a row. Now only sister Venus stands in the way of a 'Serena Slam'. After giving away the first set with two consecutive double faults, Serena rallied from two breaks down and saved two match points while trailing 5-2 in the final set and beat Clijsters 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. This will be the fourth straight Grand Slam tournament championship match between the two sisters. Serena beat Venus last year for the French and US Open and Wimbledon titles, after missing the Australian with an ankle injury. "I'm a fighter," Serena said. "I didn't come all these miles to lose". One more win means she will be the first woman to hold all four major titles at once since Steffi Graf nine years ago. Graf held all four major titles after adding the 1994 Australian title to her victories in the other majors in 1993. Graf also is one of only three women with a true Grand Slam. She did that in 1988, following Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Margaret Court in 1970. Serena's win avenged a loss to Clijsters in the season-ending WTA Championships in Los Angeles last November, when the 19-year-old Belgian upset Venus and Serena Williams in consecutive matches to clinch the title. Serena struggled to hold up her end, bothered by blisters on her right foot and a flurry of unforced errors. Trailing 5-1 in the final set, Williams held serve and then saved two match points - one with a volley winner to end a long point - before breaking Clijsters' serve. "I really didn't think I'd win it at that stage," Williams said. "I just kept fighting, one point at a time. Next thing I knew, the match was over". Williams held again to make it 5-4. Clijsters then committed five straight faults to go down 0-30 and Williams eventually broke again to even the match. Williams then held serve to go up 6-5. Williams broke Clijsters' serve at love to win her 27th straight Grand Slam match, throwing her arms in the air in celebration. Earlier, there was a nine-minute delay with Clijsters leading 2-1 in the third set when Williams needed an injury timeout to have blisters on her right foot treated. Williams hopped around during the rest of the match, bothered by the foot, but ended up the winner. Easy for Venus Earlier, Venus Williams did her part to set up a fourth consecutive Grand Slam tournament final with her reigning triple champion sister. Venus reached an Australian Open final for the first time by beating Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals. Serena beat Venus for the title at the French and US Opens and Wimbledon last year, but missed the Australian with an ankle injury. "It's so exciting. You know, I've struggled and failed, done everything but get this close to winning the Australian Open," said Venus, who never had gone past the semifinals here before and lost in the quarterfinals last year. Henin-Hardenne, who recovered from cramps late in the match to beat Lindsay Davenport on Sunday, tested Williams at times with deep, heavy shots and never let her get away with any volley that was just routine. Williams sometimes was overpowering on her serve, starting the second set's second game with three of her eventual seven aces, but also suffered her worst lapses in service games. She lost the match's third game on errors including two double faults. Serving for the match at 5-2 in the second, she reached her first match point but double faulted three times and lost the game. She wrapped up the 74-minute match when Henin hit a forehand long for match point No. 2 and then hit just wide with a forehand aimed at Williams' open backhand corner. Paes-Navratilova advance Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi walked onto the court together, but on the opposite ends. The mixed doubles quarter-final featured Paes and Navratilova (USA) versus Mahesh Bhupathi and Iroda Tulyaganova (UZB). Paes and Navratilova emerged winners in straight sets – 6-4, 6-3 – to enter the semi-final. (AP)