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.
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