Venus Williams moved into her first Grand Slam final since 2009 with a hard-fought win over Coco Vandeweghe Thursday at the Australian Open.
The seven-time major champion had to battle against Vandeweghe in their all-American semifinal, winning 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.
Williams’ win in two hours, 25 minutes saw her advance to a 15th major final and second in Melbourne, having been runner-up in 2003. At 36 years, she’s the oldest Australian Open finalist in the Open era. Her first Grand Slam final appearance came in 1997.
Vandeweghe, ranked 35th, enjoyed a stunning run, beating Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza on her way to a first Grand Slam semifinal. But she let momentum slip after winning a tight first set, and her wasted chances proved costly.
Williams took the opportunity presented to get back into the match, keeping on track a potential final against sister Serena.
However, the 36-year-old seemed to make the more nervous start of the pair and six unforced errors in the opening game saw her drop serve.
A running cross-court forehand winner by Williams set up a break back point in the next game, and it was handed to her by a Vandeweghe double fault.
Both players held serve relatively comfortably for the rest of the set, only for the first five points of the tie-break to go the way of the receiver.
Vandeweghe’s power helped her to a 6-2 lead, the set won when the 13th-seeded Williams sent a backhand return well long.
However, Williams won 10 straight points early in the second set as Vandeweghe lost her way.
Williams broke again for 4-1, through back-to-back Vandeweghe double faults, to force a deciding set.
She carried that form into the third set, breaking in the opening game when Vandeweghe sent a backhand into the net.
Williams recovered from 15-40 to hold for 2-0 as Vandeweghe tried desperately to snatch back the momentum, but the veteran served impressively before closing out her win with another break when her opponent sent a forehand long.
Williams  def. Vandeweghe 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 6-3
Williams – 30/35
Vandeweghe – 37/50
Williams – 11
Vandeweghe – 10
BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 4/8
Vandeweghe – 1/13
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Williams – 57
Vandeweghe – 54
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Williams – 77/43
Vandeweghe – 76/40
Williams – 106
Vandeweghe – 96