MONTRÉAL, Canada - After letting a first set lead slip away Venus Williams went right back to work, kept on firing her big serve and swinging away on her massive groundstrokes, and eventually pulled off the kind of upset that will make everyone a believer again, taking out sister Serena Williams.
It had been a while since Venus had beaten a player of this caliber - her last win over a reigning World No.1 was against Dinara Safina in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2009, and her last win over Serena was at Dubai earlier that year. But Venus had taken out some very in-form players already this week - Angelique Kerber and Carla Suárez Navarro - and she was ready to put an end to the five year wait.
Venus came out of the blocks fast, breaking in the first game of the match and building a 3-1 lead off of it - but Serena broke back for 3-all, and after the two traded hold after hold it was Serena who swung much more freely in the tie-break, winning the first five points and eventually closing it out, 7-2.
But Venus wasn't done by any means - she broke Serena right away in the second set and eventually snuck another break out to take that second set, 6-2, and snuck one more break out for a 4-2 lead in the third set, eventually closing out the match after two hours and one minute, 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3.
The match was of the highest quality - both players ended with positive winners-to-unforced errors differentials, Venus at +3 (23 to 20) and Serena at +3 as well (35 to 32). And with Serena blasting 19 aces during the match, a season high for her, Venus's four-of-eight on break points was impressive.
"The level of game we played was pretty high," Venus said. "We're both serving well, returning well, moving well - everything is happening so well that all of our matches seem to be very competitive."
Venus, who had never even won a match in Canada before this week, is through to her 74th WTA final - she's 45-28 in her first 73. She will be going for her second WTA title of the year, her first coming at another Premier-level stop in Dubai in February. She's also projected to return to the Top 20 now.
What has changed for her? "I think a lot of it is physical and a lot of it is mental, too," she said. "I've been working hard. And more importantly, I've been feeling better. I hope I can keep some of this control in my life - if I have that control, I can enjoy being on the court, and I can win as well."
Serena said afterwards she wasn't thrilled with her own play, but impressed with Venus'.
"She was really opening the court well," Serena said. "She's such a good mover. She moves really well. I think her serve was way more consistent than mine. I had more aces, but she served better.
"Ultimately I think she returned better as well, so, yeah."
And after being asked whether she was proud of her big sister, Serena kept the compliments coming.
"Yeah, it's great," she said. "You know, she's been doing really well. Obviously I always want her to do the best that she can. I want to do the best that I can, too. But yeah, I'm really happy for her."
Big sister taught little sister a lesson...