Serena back at No.1 with 23rd grand slam win
TENNIS: Chock-full of tension, something had to give.
History-chasing Serena Williams slipped on the baseline, after a suspenseful start, as older sister Venus received the added advantage of the net cord.
It was only the third game of Saturday night's Australian Open final - and locked at 1-1 - Serena's racquet bore the brunt of her premature fury.
It was the signature moment and if not quite the turning point, Serena's jangling nerves soon settled and she went on to defeat Venus 6-4 6-4 in 82 minutes and clinch a seventh Daphne Akhurst trophy.
Serena, 35, also finally broke her deadlock with German great Steffi Graf for the most grand slam singles titles in the Open Era, her 23rd moving her within one of Australian Margaret Court's all-time record.
Court watched from the Rod Laver Arena stands.
And Serena is back at No.1, too, taking over from another German Angelique Kerber, who denied her in a classic Australian Open final a year ago.
"I would really like to take this moment to congratulate Venus; she is an amazing person. There is no way I would be at 23 without her," Serena said.
"There is no way I would be at No.1 without her. She is my inspiration; she is the only reason I am standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist.
"Thank you, Venus, for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard. Every time you won this week, I felt like I got a win, too."
Venus, 36, crossed the net after match point for an extended embrace with her younger sibling, who dropped to the court in emotional scenes, and spoke of her pride in the post-match presentation.
"It was great to have an opportunity to play for the title. That's exactly where I want to be standing during these grand slams," Venus said.
"That's the highlight of all this; is to be in that moment. I really enjoy seeing the name 'Williams' on the trophy. This is a beautiful thing.
"(Winning 23 grand slams is) a great number. I know she would like to have a little more. Who wouldn't? It was a great moment ... and she earned it."
The Williams sisters' grand slam finals, which are now tilted 7-2 in Serena's favour, have traditionally been celebrated, but awkward occasions for them and intriguing for spectators.
This was no different, with the first insight coming in the pre-match photos, where Serena's steely exterior was unshaken as Venus grinned from ear to ear and even threw an arm around her sister.
Four breaks of serve kicked off the contest, the last of them coming when Serena, famed for her serving accuracy, extraordinarily sent down a third double fault for the game.
They each had more slip-ups than normal in that regard, perhaps an offshoot of the way they destroyed the other's second serve.
Venus won a meagre 29 per cent of second-serve points, Serena's success rate improved late to 46 per cent.
Venus' seven grand slam titles - the last of them at Wimbledon in 2008 - mean she will forever be remembered among the greats, but incredibly not even as the best in her family.
Their father Richard told us early on that Venus would become the No.1 player in the world, and that Serena would be even better.
The polarising Richard Williams, as we have known for some time, was spot on.
The finish line was in sight for Serena once she won a 16-shot rally, then the longest of the match, to bring up break point in the seventh game of the second set.
A blistering crosscourt backhand return winner sealed the break for her soon after and she coolly added to her place in the history books a handful of games later.