Serena Williams just picked up her 23rd Grand Slam title, defeating her “toughest opponent” — her big sister Venus. The 6-4, 6-4 Australian Open win catapulted her in front of 22-Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf, and gave Williams the title for most Grand Slams in the Open era of anyone, male or female.
The victory, following a year in which Serena won one Grand Slam and lost her No. 1 world ranking to Germany’s Angelique Kerber, recaptures her world ranking.
In a post-win ceremony, Serena thanked her sister for always pushing her to be better. “Every time she won her match, I felt obligated to win – I’ve got to win, too. The motivation she gives me, it’s really second to nothing,” she said.
Venus was just as supportive.
“Serena Williams. That’s my little sister, guys,” Venus said. “Your win has always been my win.”
Both Serena and Venus Williams entered the professional tennis circuit in the 1990s. Their tenure has been long, their dominance persistent, and their absences — for injuries and illnesses — brief. They’ve come a long way from training on the public courts in Compton, California, where as kids, they would duck when gunshots rang out.
“Two black girls from Compton probably weren’t supposed to play tennis, let alone be really good at it,” Serena said in the documentary “Venus and Serena.”
And the path forward for the two sisters since hasn’t been without its challenges.
Venus Williams, now ranked 17, was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, in 2011. She fell out of the top 100 briefly, but has remained an intimidating opponent and one of the great players of the era with seven Grand Slam titles to boast.
Venus, 36, is the oldest player to play in a Grand Slam final. In 2015, Serena became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam at age 33. Together, the sisters have won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles.
“There’s no way I would be at 23 without her; there’s no way I would be at one without her,” Serena said.