Serena Williams rewrote history Saturday to surpass Steffi Graf and capture a record 23rd Grand Slam title as well as the world number one ranking by beating her sister Venus in the Australian Open final.
The dominant American swept past her greatest rival 6-4, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena for her seventh Melbourne Park crown to finally clinch the record for Open-era major titles, nearly 18 years after winning her first at the 1999 US Open.
The 35-year-old, who equalled Graf’s mark of 22 at Wimbledon last year, now stands just one behind the all-time 24 won by Margaret Court, who was in the president’s box to witness her feat.
Her astonishing achievement also means she again becomes the world’s number one player, ending the brief stay of Angelique Kerber who displaced Williams after three-and-a-half years on top in September last year.
Fittingly, her sister and closest confidante, Venus ,was on the other side of the net to share the moment, another chapter written in their amazing family history.
“I would really like to take this moment to congratulate Venus, she is an amazing person,” said Serena.
“There is no way I would be at 23 without her. There is no way I would be at one 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.”
It was Venus — when still a teenager with beads in her hair — who knocked Serena out in round two on her Grand Slam debut in Melbourne 19 years ago, and they have since played nine major finals together, living each other’s highs and lows.
At 36 and seeded 13, Venus had turned back the clock to make her first Grand Slam title match since Wimbledon in 2009, but adding to her seven major successes was not to be.