Venus Williams rolled back the years at the Australian Open, as she treated fans to a vintage tennis display en route to the finals.
The 36-year-old will take on sister Serena for the ninth time in a major final after coolly dismantling fellow American Coco Vandeweghe, despite dropping her first set of the tournament to the world number 35 in a 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 victory. She is now in her 15th Grand Slam final, having previously won seven, lost seven.
Venus will be the oldest finalist at Melbourne Park since tennis turned professional in 1968, and her inspiring run to the finals, despite the illness and injuries she has suffered, is one the sport's most heartening stories.
She was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, a rare, energy-sapping autoimmune disorder in 2011. She later adopted a vegan and raw foods diet to decrease inflammation in her body. She has also been affected by injuries in recent seasons.
But with this final appearance, she has now set a new record for the longest gap between Grand Slam finals – of seven-and-a-half years – after her last appearance in the 2009 title match at Wimbledon.
On being asked about her inspirational journey and her status as a role model, Venus gave an interesting insight after her match on just how much the sport means to her.
“What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there is no do-over, there’s no retake, there is no voice-over. It’s triumph and disaster witnessed in real-time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can’t fake it. You can’t. It’s either you do it or you don’t,"
“People relate to the champion. They also relate to the person also who didn’t win because we all have those moments in our life," Venus said.
“Is it an athlete’s job to inspire? Inherently what I think athletes do at a top level inspires people, but each person takes that responsibility differently.”
Despite failing to reach a major final since Wimbledon in 2009, Venus says that she always knew it would happen again.
"Not at all. Not at all," she said, when asked if she ever thought the chance had passed, particularly with her diagnosis with Sjogren's syndrome.
"Even the matches I'm not winning, I'm still in control, normally, of every match that I have the opportunity. It's on my racquet, always putting myself in position to be where I need to be,"
"As long as you continue to try, you have an opportunity. That's why I'm here," Venus said.
Watch the full interview here
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 27, 2017 17:18:17 IST