Venus Williams produced some sizzling form to ease past her sister Serena 6-3, 6-4 and reach the fourth round at Indian Wells on Monday.
It was just the second win for Venus in her last 10 matches against Serena, who was contesting her first tournament back from a 13-month maternity leave. Venus is now 17-12 overall against her sister.
Coming into Indian Wells, the 37-year-old Venus had played just four matches in 2018, winning two matches in Fed Cup against the Netherlands and losing her openers in Sydney and Melbourne.
Only three people had ever defeated Serena on the hard courts of Indian Wells – Alexia Dechaume-Balleret, Mary Pierce and Victoria Azarenka. On Monday, Venus became the fourth.
“She played so well, I think it’s such a treat for everyone to see this match so early in her comeback. I always know that it’s never over until it’s over. She kept roaring back. I’m just lucky that I’ve played more matches than her right now,” said Venus after the win on court.
“I’m from right down the street, in Compton, California. This just shows that wherever you come from, if you put in the work and you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”
The sisters sat back-to-back on a golf buggy transporting them to Stadium 1 – “carpooling to work” as emcee Andrew Krasny told the crowd waiting for them to arrive.
It was the earliest round the Williamses have faced each other since their first meeting in the 1998 Australian Open (not including WTA Finals round-robin matches).
Serena had won eight of their previous nine encounters, including last year’s Australian Open final in Melbourne that gave her a 23rd Grand Slam title.
The first two games alone took 14 minutes.
The eighth-seeded Venus served first and had to a save a break point before holding. Serena saved three break points in her opening service game to level for 1-all.
Venus drew first blood, breaking for 4-2 and she sealed the set with back-to-back aces.
A string of errors from Serena saw her get broken at the start of the second set. The 36-year-old tried to break the rhythm in the next game, brining in Venus to the net with a sublime drop shot and getting the winner with a cheeky lob. But the older sister still held then broke again for a 3-0 lead.
Another drop shot from Serena gave her a break point in the next game and the two-time champion converted with a blink-and-you-miss-it return winner.
A stunning point of sheer power and delicate placement from Venus saw her slam down a down-the-line forehand winner to get two break points in game seven and she regained her two-break advantage on her second opportunity with yet another winner.
She got her first match point on an error from her opponent but Serena saved it with a backhand passing shot.
Some great defence from Serena drew an overhead error from Venus and suddenly the younger sibling had a break point. A double fault from Venus handed over the break as Serena kept herself alive in the contest.
Serena held for 4-5, forcing Venus to try and serve out the match for a second time.
Some nervy errors saw Venus face a break point but she found her serve when she needed it and this time did not falter, converting on her second match point opportunity to wrap up the victory in one hour and 26 minutes and set up a fourth round against Anastasija Sevastova, the No. 21 seed.
Roger Federer has hailed the “longevity and dominance” of Serena and Venus Williams, who face-off in the Indian Wells third round on Monday, and believes Serena’s comeback from maternity leave could be the “story of the year”.
Federer, who at 36 is ranked No. 1 in the world and has won a 20th Grand Slam title last January, was born just a month before Serena.
The Williamses are arguably the most famous siblings in sporting history and Federer has been around the tour for most of their careers.
Serena captured an Open Era-record 23rd Grand Slam while pregnant at the Australian Open last year while Venus is 37 and made two major finals in 2017.
“Longevity and dominance. They showed that,” Federer said when asked what strikes him the most about the two sisters.
“They had a massive arrival on the scene, a lot of buzz around them, and they lived up to the hype. Came out and crushed it.
“From the very beginning, they were very interesting to follow. I think they hardly played any juniors, really, which made it more of a mystery, because you just didn’t know exactly what to expect from them. And coming from being coached by their dad. I mean, it’s an incredible fascinating story.”
Both Venus and Serena have overcome serious health problems only to come back stronger.
Venus is living with the auto-immune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome while Serena has a pulmonary embolism in 2011 and also suffered from serious complications last year after delivering her first child, Olympia, as several blood clots had settled in her lungs.
Serena is back on tour, making her first WTA appearance since January 2017 this week at Indian Wells, and takes on Venus in what would be their 29th career showdown.
“For many years we were worried that they were going to check out early with sickness or injuries,” Federer continued talking about the sisters.
“We weren’t sure if they’re going to play as long as we hoped them to play. And here we are. They are both over 35, 36, and still basically playing at the top. Serena being a mum now, Venus overcame a lot of also difficult situations and still playing.
“Being older again than Serena, myself, it’s wonderful to see and I’m very happy for them,especially now watching Serena’s comeback since the baby. I think that’s going to be a huge story, maybe the story of the year. Hopefully she decides to play a lot and enjoy herself in the process and get back to who knows how high? It almost doesn’t matter, but it would just be amazing to see her do it now.
“And then now they are facing off here tonight. I think it’s great for the sport and they have done so much already. This is like the extra lap they are doing and the fans can enjoy it. So I’m very happy for them.”
INDIAN WELLS — Angelique Kerber avenged her defeat to Elena Vesnina here last year by ending the Russian’s title defence with a straight-sets win on Monday to reach the BNP Paribas Open fourth round.
The 10th-seeded Kerber, who had lost her last two meetings to Vesnina, saved 9/13 break points in the one-hour 39-minute battle in hot conditions in the California desert to set up a last-16 clash against French No. 7 seed Caroline Garcia with a 7-5, 6-2.
“I think the match was a really high level from the both of us. The first set was extremely important. The second set was really close, it was 6-2 but every game was really close and every single point was really a fight. It’s a great feeling to win another match here at Indian Wells,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion.
The German lefty now owns a joint tour-leading 17 victories in 2018 (same as Caroline Wozniacki).
Vesnina went down an early break but struck back and inched ahead to lead 5-4 and serve for the set. The Russian couldn’t close it though as Kerber drew level.
Kerber needed a lengthy game to hold for 6-5 then went up 0-40 on Vesnina’s serve in game 12. The No. 24 seed saved all three set points though.
A netted volley saw Vesnina face a fourth set point and a deep, high return from Kerber gave the German the advantage.
Vesnina kept getting opportunities to break but Kerber swatted them away as she leapt to a 5-1 lead in the second set.
Serving for the match, Kerber fell behind 0-40 and Vesnina broke to stay alive in the clash. But that only delayed the inevitable as Kerber wrapped up the win in the next game, wearing down Vesnina in a long exchange to advance to the fourth round.
Kerber’s best results in Indian Wells came in 2012 and 2013 when she reached the semi-finals. The last left-hander win the BNP Paribas Open was Monica Seles in 1992, and last German to triumph here was Steffi Graf in 1996.