Australian Open 2017 Women's Final: Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams Preview

Brian Marron@@brianmarron398Featured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 09:  Serena Williams of The United States (R) and Venus Williams of The United States (L) in conversation during the Ladies Doubles Final against Timea Babos of hungary and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Serena and Venus Williams will meet Saturday at the 2017 Australian Open women's final, but the 28th professional meeting between the sisters could be the swan song for one of the game's most recognizable rivalries.

Both are entering the twilight of their brilliant careers, which could make this matchup the last major showdown between the two. With the stakes this high for possibly the final time, look for plenty of passion in Melbourne.

Let us take a look at the schedule for Saturday's match, as well as a preview of what to expect.

2017 Australian Open Women's Final Schedule
DateStart Time (ET)NetworkLive Stream
Saturday, Jan. 283:30 a.m.ESPNWatch ESPN
ESPN.com

Match Preview

With these sisters being among the most successful players in tennis history, it is no coincidence that Serena and Venus frequently cross paths on the court.

Serena is a 22-time Grand Slam winner, which ties her with Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era. Venus owns seven Grand Slam titles, making this matchup among the most decorated ever, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Adding intrigue to Saturday's outing is that Venus has yet to win an Australian Open, as her best finish was as a runner-up in 2003. Meanwhile, Serena has won this event six times, including that 2003 matchup. Yet Serena still expressed that this game is sort of an emotional win-win, per ESPN's Greg Garber.

"It's the one time that I really genuinely feel like no matter what happens," she said. "I can't lose, she can't lose.

"I feel no matter what, that we have both won, after all we have been through. I know a Williams is going to win this tournament."

The winning sister on Saturday could have the last laugh in this rivalry, with age becoming a major factor for both players. In fact, Serena, 35, and Venus, 36, will combine for a historic mark, per CNN's Coy Wire:

Serena has gotten the better of her big sister throughout her career, sporting a 16-11 overall record. She also won the last three matches and four of the last five meetings. 

On hard courts, Serena is 11-8, with 10 of those showdowns going three sets. With so much on the line and the emotional stakes involved, expect this one to likely become the 11th to go the distance.

In this year's tournament, both players are playing excellent tennis. 

Serena has yet to drop a set while only once playing more than 20 games. This could give her a slight energy advantage over Venus, who could battle some fatigue after going three sets against CoCo Vandeweghe in the semifinals.

This match will be decided on how well Venus can handle Serena's serve. The younger Williams has scored on more than 75 percent of her first serves in five of her six outings, including a 92 percent mark in the last round. As a result, she is averaging nearly four aces a game.

Venus is winning about five return games per match, which is a solid clip. She may need to win around eight to have a better opportunity to win, and cutting down on unforced errors will be a must. In six matches, Venus is averaging 31 such mistakes. If she can bring that mark closer to 25, she will be in tremendous shape. 

Given her past success against her sister and in Melbourne overall, Serena has to be favored here. She possesses the type of powerful swing that could give an older Venus issues. Again, this match holds poignant value for Venus, and her will should turn this one into an instant classic.

   

Career statistics are courtesy of WTATennis.com. Tournament statistics are courtesy of AUSOpen.com.

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