Australian Open Finals: A Primer on Two Famous Rivalries…

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Here are their previous eight Grand Slam finals, six of which were won by Serena.

2001 U.S. Open: Venus in Two Sets

Venus Williams, 21, was already a three-time major winner and the defending champion. Serena, 19, had precociously won the Open two years before but had not been back to a Grand Slam final since. In the Open’s first prime-time women’s final, the older sister won, 6-2, 6-4. It was the first major Grand Slam final between sisters since Maud and Lilian Watson at Wimbledon in 1884 and also the first to feature two African-Americans.

How long ago was it? In the men’s final, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Pete Sampras.

The winner said: “I always want Serena to win. It’s strange. I’m the bigger sister. I’m the one who takes care of her. I make sure she has everything even if I don’t. I love her. It’s hard.”

The Times said: “There was no doubt about the effort as they grunted and grimaced through every point.”

2002 French Open: Serena in Two Sets

Serena experienced the longest major title drought of her career between her first in 1999 and her second here. After winning her first French Open, 7-5, 6-3, Serena would not win another at Roland Garros for 11 years. Venus has not advanced past the quarterfinals in Paris since.

The winner said: “I was really fighting for this for so long. At one point, I wouldn’t get past the quarters; then I got to the final, maybe a semi here and there. But it was just kind of discouraging. I didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”

The Times said: “Today, the Williams sisters reversed roles. Serena held on, while Venus came undone.”

2002 Wimbledon: Serena in Two Sets

Serena followed her first French Open title with her first Wimbledon title, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Venus had been the two-time defending champion and after this match, she lost the No. 1 ranking to Serena, too.

The winner said: “I kept thinking to myself: ‘O.K., Serena, just stay calm. Venus already has two Wimbledons. Try to fight.’”

The Times said: “Playing with the ferocity normally reserved only for others, Venus and Serena discarded their sibling code of conduct during today’s Wimbledon final.”

2002 U.S. Open: Serena in Two Sets

With a 6-4, 6-3 victory in Flushing Meadows, Serena completed a 4-0 season against her sister. Winning her third major in a row, Serena also tied Venus with four Grand Slam titles overall.

“Everybody has a year,” Venus said. “This is her year. Next year could be her year, too.”

The winner said: “I prefer to play Venus because that means that we have reached our maximum potential and that we’ll both go home winners. For me, I’m happy to play her in the final.”

The Times said: “If Venus and Serena continue to find each other at the end of majors the way Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi have all these years, there will be a universal appreciation for a rivalry that will never be re-created again.”

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Venus Williams, above, losing to Serena in three sets in the final of the 2003 Australian Open, which was the fourth straight Grand Slam final featuring the sisters.

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Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

2003 Australian Open: Serena in Three Sets

For the fourth straight Grand Slam event, it was Williams versus Williams. And for the fourth straight time, Serena was the winner, completing her first so-called Serena Slam. For the first time, the match went three sets: 7–6 (4),3–6, 6–4. (Serena completed another Serena Slam in 2014-15 by winning four majors in a row.)

The winner said: “I never get choked up, never, but I’m really emotional right now and really, really happy,”

The Times said: “In a breathtaking, fist-pumping, title-gobbling hurry, Serena Williams has become one of the greats.”

2003 Wimbledon: Serena in Three Sets

After an all-Belgian French Open final between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, normal service resumed in the next major tournament. But this may have been the most awkward of the finals between the Williams sisters. Venus strained an abdominal muscle during her semifinal match, and later acknowledged that she might not have played if it had not been a Wimbledon final and if the opponent had not been her sister. Still, Venus battled for three sets, losing, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The winner said: “I was just telling myself, if anything, ‘This is Wimbledon.’ God knows if I would get this opportunity again, so I just kept telling myself that. I think, if anything, I fought harder.”

The Times said: It might be getting easier for Serena to play her older sister, but it is still not nearly the same as matching huge ground strokes and healthy egos with an outsider. Playing Venus when she was injured only added a layer of complexity.

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Serena Williams, above, losing to Venus in the 2008 Wimbledon final, the last time the older Williams has won a Grand Slam title.

Credit
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

2008 Wimbledon: Venus in Two Sets

After the sisters played each other six times in eight major finals from 2001 to 2003, it took almost five years for them to meet in a final again. For the first time since their first Grand Slam final, Venus came out on top, 7-5, 6-4. It was Venus’s fifth Wimbledon title and seventh major championship overall, though she has not won one since.

The winner said: “She played so awesome. It was really a task to beat her.”

The Times said: “Sisters for life and doubles partners later in the afternoon, Venus and Serena Williams put most of that aside for nearly two hours on Saturday at Wimbledon, smacking serves and ground strokes in each other’s direction with a vengeance and an accuracy that have often been lacking in their previous family reunions.”

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Serena Williams after winning at Wimbledon in 2009. She has a 6-2 edge over her sister in Grand Slam finals.

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Carl De Souza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

2009 Wimbledon: Serena in Two Sets

Venus was the two-time defending champion, and coming into the final, she had won 20 straight matches and 34 straight sets at the All England Club. But Serena would not be denied, winning, 7-6 (3), 6-2. She had claimed three of the past four Grand Slam events to bring her career total to 11.

The winner said: (Of the Venus Rosewater Dish, presented to the winner) “It’s named the Venus, and she always wins it, and it’s just like wow. It hasn’t settled in that I won yet.”

The Times said: “Serena’s victory on Saturday, in which she finished with 12 aces and never lost her serve, was the latest confirmation that she is on another memorable run.”

Serena Williams was not nearly done. Since that final, she has made 14 more, winning 11 for a career total of 22 Grand Slam singles championships. Venus has not been back to a final, with just two Grand Slam semifinal appearances.

Until this week. Seeded just 13th, Venus rolled back the years to seize an unexpected berth in the final in Melbourne. Once again, her sister stands in the way.

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Roger Federer, left, of Switzerland, congratulated Rafael Nadal of Spain after losing to him in the 2006 French Open final.

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Michel Spingler/Associated Press

Federer-Nadal, Again and Again

Two of the all-time greats meet again, 35-year-old Roger Federer and 30-year-old Rafael Nadal. It is their first meeting in a Grand Slam final in more than five years. The excitement has been amplified by the unexpectedness of the matchup. Both players are coming off long layoffs because of injuries, and they have fallen in the rankings. Nadal is seeded ninth in Melbourne, and Federer 17th.

The titans of the sport for more than a decade, Nadal and Federer have met 34 times since 2004 (Nadal leads, 23-11). Eight of those matches came on the highest stage: a Grand Slam final. Here are those matches (Nadal leads, 6-2), soon to increase by one.

2006 French Open: Nadal in Four Sets

Nadal, still only 20, was the defending champion and had established himself as the best in the world on clay, winning 59 in a row on the surface. Federer, 24, was the game’s best player, with a 7-0 record in Slam finals, including the previous three. But Nadal had won the last four matches against Federer and also their first final matchup, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4), after missing the Australian Open with a broken foot.

The winner said: “To beat the No. 1 player and doing it after the injury I had, I’d say the emotions were a bit more powerful.”

The New York Times said: “It was short on rhythm, short on spectacular rallies and, ultimately, short on suspense.”

2006 Wimbledon: Federer in Four Sets

Nadal was 4-0 against Federer on the year. But back on his favored grass surface, Federer won his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title, 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3.

The winner said: “It was important for me to win a final against him for a change and beat him for a change. At Wimbledon, I knew it was going to be the place for me to do it the easiest way.”

The Times said: Federer was “looking slightly more relieved than overjoyed as he walked, heavy-legged, to the net to share a handshake and a pat on the stomach with the young Spaniard.”

2007 French Open: Nadal in Four Sets

Federer again came in having won three consecutive Grand Slam titles. A week before the French Open began, he finally beat Nadal on clay for the first time. But Nadal again foiled him in Paris, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Federer had 59 unforced errors to Nadal’s 27.

The winner said: “Roger sometimes plays very, very aggressive, especially with the forehand. But anyway, for me, he has the best forehand of the tour, no? But, yes, the truth is, he had some mistakes today, more than usual.”

The Times said: “Nadal’s forehands found the court’s white lines as if they were magnets, as he repeatedly hit winners. He dripped with sweat, but seemed to be gaining energy, while Federer looked exhausted.”

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Federer returned a shot to Nadal, not pictured, in the Wimbledon final in 2007.

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Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press

2007 Wimbledon: Federer in Five Sets

Federer gained a fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2, joining Bjorn Borg as the only players to do that in a century. It was the first five-set Slam major between the rivals, who between them had now won the last 10 Grand Slam events. (The streak ended at 11 when Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open the next year.)

Federer won the match with his serve: He had 24 aces to Nadal’s one.

The winner said: “It’s a good rivalry, I think. We’ve been at the top for over 100 weeks together. It is building up to one of, maybe, the great rivalries.”

The Times said: “Nadal is moving closer, but he cannot seem to beat Federer off the clay.”

2008 French Open: Nadal in Three Sets

Nadal was at his absolute peak in this tournament, not losing a set on the way to a fourth straight title at Roland Garros. His 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 victory was the most lopsided result in a men’s Grand Slam final since 1984, and it was the only final between the rivals to be decided in straight sets.

The winner said: “I think I played an almost perfect match, and Roger made more mistakes than usual.”

The Times said: “In a final that only rarely resembled anything other than one-way traffic, Nadal was at his suffocating finest.”

2008 Wimbledon: Nadal in Five Sets

Nadal had won four straight French Opens, and Federer five straight Wimbledons. The pattern finally ended with this breakthrough victory for Nadal, generally cited as the greatest match between them.

Nadal won the first two sets before Federer fought back to win the next two in tiebreakers. The final set went all the way to 9-7; Nadal finally won when Federer hit a short forehand into the net after 4 hours 48 minutes. The final score was 6–4, 6–4, 6–7 (5), 6–7 (8), 9–7. It was the longest singles final in Wimbledon’s 131-year history and finished in near darkness.

The winner said: “It’s one of the most powerful feelings I’ve had in my life.”

The Times said: “Last year’s emotional tussle immediately took its place among the best Wimbledon finals, but this five-set classic — played on a rainy, gusty day — was better yet.”

2009 Australian Open: Nadal in Five Sets

For the first time, the men met in a Grand Slam final somewhere besides Paris or London. And for the first time, it was Nadal who was seeded first, with Federer second.

In another five-setter, Nadal won again, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2, preventing Federer from equaling Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slams. Federer struggled with his serve, putting only 52 percent of his first serves in play, by far his lowest percentage of the tournament.

A devastated Federer broke down in tears during his postmatch interview, saying, “God, it’s killing me.”

The winner said (to Federer): “Well, first of all, sorry for today. I really know how you feel right now. It’s really tough. Remember, you’re a great champion. You’re one of the best in history.”

The Times said: “The roar heard at Rod Laver Arena when Federer held serve to even the match at two sets apiece was soon replaced by the groans and awkward silences that accompany an anticlimax.”

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Nadal reacted after beating Federer in the final of the 2011 French Open.

Credit
Laurent Baheux/Associated Press

2011 French Open: Nadal in Four Sets

Before this year, this was the only final in which Nadal and Federer were not seeded Nos. 1 and 2 (Nadal was No. 1, but Federer was No. 3, behind Djokovic). Nadal matched Borg with a sixth French title, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1.

The winner said: “There is a lot of emotion, but the real satisfaction comes from all the work you do before you get there.”

The Times said: “Their rivalry is one of the greatest in tennis history, yet it has been decidedly short on suspense here.”

Since that match, Federer has been back to a Grand Slam final four times, winning the 2012 Wimbledon, his seventh. Nadal has been to eight major finals, with a 4-4 record. Last year was the first since 2002 in which neither appeared in a Grand Slam final.Their rivalry seemed to be waning as Djokovic and Andy Murray took their places at the top of tennis.

But here are Federer and Nadal again, improbably, for one more big final.

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