by: Ben Stevens
Some matches live up to expectations. Some matches exceed them. A select few obliterate them. That was one of those matches.
It may not have been as long as his epics with Fernando Verdasco and Novak Djokovic, but Rafael Nadal’s 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 victory over Grigor Dimitrov was every bit as special. It was that rare match that started at a high quality and never let up, even as the stakes were raised and the minutes turned into hours. For both players it was career defining: Dimitrov, for his announcement as not just a force at the slams once again, but as a big-game player of the highest calibre, and for Nadal, that nearly three years removed from his last major title, and with his body increasingly unreliable, he can still do, well… that.
Now, all attention turns to Saturday, and a women’s final with more story on offer than even the most well-curated Netflix queue. It’s once again time for Serena and Venus.
Serena Williams (USA)  v Venus Williams (USA)  – Not before 7:30 pm local
Serena and Venus. Venus and Serena. Once more into the breach they go. Whoever wins it’ll be a remarkable accomplishment – Serena for no. 23, Venus for her first since Wimbledon 2008 – but only one can pull it off, and the favourite to do so is firmly Williams the Younger. Serena leads the head-to-head 15-11, but more ominously is 6-2 at majors and has only lost once this decade, at Montreal back in 2014. The problem for Venus is that for the most part Serena does everything she does, but better. Both masters of the modern power baseline game, their meetings are often characterised by first-strike tennis – shots manoeuvring are shots wasted, capable of being punished immediately by the other and therefore, thrown out with any pre-match good will – but with a superior forehand, Serena has the advantage. So how can Venus pull this off?
Firstly, she’ll simply need to sustain a higher level of play. As great as she is, Serena is still human, and we’ve seen her falter in finals before. To play armchair-psychologist, perhaps the prospect of breaking tennis history is more nerve inducing for Serena than achieving an immense personal accomplishment is for Venus. Secondly, point after point Venus will need to win the race to control the centre of the court, allowing her to not just put her sister on the run, but create further pressure by coming to the net and using her superb volleys. Combine that with some lethal serving and she may just win the day. Maybe.
Whatever happens, it will be a treat to watch these two women do battle in a final once more. This very encounter has taught us not to discount any occurrence of it happening again, but eventually there will come an end, whether we like it or not. At least now we can savour once more the greatest sibling pairing in the history of sports. Enjoy the show.