VENUS DEFEATS SERENA
IN THIRD ROUND AT INDIAN WELLS
Ashley Marshall | March 13, 2018
Venus Williams defeated sister Serena for just the second time in the past nine years to book her place in the quarterfinals of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
Venus advanced, 6-3, 6-4, in 85 minutes Monday evening, earning her first victory over Serena since the 2014 Rogers Cup semifinal in Montreal, when she rallied from a set down for a 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 triumph. The win also marked the first time she has triumphed over her sister in straight sets since the 2008 Wimbledon final.
It was the 29th overall time the siblings have faced one another but the first time at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden – a place at which, until recent years, fans thought they may never see the sisters compete again.
Venus now plays No. 21 seed Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth round for a spot in the quarterfinals.ADVERTISEMENT
Serena entered the contest with eight wins in her nine previous matches against Venus, including most recently in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, which was Serena's last competitive WTA Tour-level match. But Serena's 17-11 career head-to-head record against her sister meant little once the players were on the court, with Venus experiencing a career renaissance as of late and Serena still getting back up to speed after more than 14 months away from the game.
The 23-time Grand Slam women's singles champion has played just a handful of matches since lifting the trophy in Melbourne Park. She lost an exhibition match to Jelena Ostapenko in December and a doubles match with her sister in the Fed Cup quarterfinals against the Netherlands in February, even though the U.S. had already won the best-of-five match before they took to the court.
Earlier this month, Serena joined her sibling at Madison Square Garden for the Tie Break Tens exhibition tournament in New York City, with Serena winning one match and Venus falling in her opener in the first-to-10-points short-version format.
In Indian Wells on Monday evening, there was little between the two great American champions on the scoreboard early on, although it was relatively easy to tell which of the sisters was lacking competitive match practice.
Serena's timing still looked a little off, and her ground strokes lacked the consistency and depth of those when she is at her peak. She still flashed moments of powerful brilliance from the back of the court, but several times in the opening set, Serena could be heard letting out screams of frustration in acknowledgment that she is not necessarily where she wants to be.
Venus (pictured above right with Serena) saved a break point in the first game of the match despite two double faults, while Serena was forced to save three on her own racquet in her first service game – itself more than seven minutes long.
Venus held to love for 3-2 for the first comfortable hold of the match, as she reeled off nine consecutive points to break to love and open up an early advantage. Serena seemed content to stick to her aggressive gameplan of stepping inside the baseline to attack Venus' second serve, but the results were mixed. Serena made 17 unforced errors to eight winners, while Venus recorded five more winners than miscues in that first set.
While it took 14 minutes to play the first two games, Serena found herself serving to stay in the opening set at the 30-minute mark.
Serena did hold, but Venus closed out the first set at the next opportunity behind well-placed serves out wide that Serena struggled to handle. It marked the first time Venus won the opening set in a match against her younger sister since 2009.
Serena, who gave birth to her first daughter Alexis Olympia in September, came into the match having spent almost two hours and 25 more games on court than Venus, who earned a first-round bye. That, combined with a lack of matches under her belt, led to Serena actively avoiding prolonged rallies and going for knockout blows at the earliest opportunity.
The 37-year-old world No. 8 utilized her sister's aggression against her, breaking Serena to open the second set and then again on a Serena double fault to forge ahead 3-0. Serena broke back and, on the hour mark, consolidated to cut the deficit to 3-2, before Venus capitalized on her second break point in the seventh game to reestablish a double break.
Serena saved a match point with a bachkand pass down the line, but Venus made no mistake trying to serve it out the second time, as she punched her ticket to the Round of 16.
The sisters have played several memorable matches in the past two decades, including a first-round matchup at the 2009 year-ending Tour championships in Qatar, the US Open final in 2008 and the championship matches at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2003.
While that outstanding quality of more than a decade ago wasn't always on display this time around, there was no lack of excitement, anticipation or shot-making, especially off the Venus forehand.
Adding to the newsworthiness of the match, Serena was playing in just her third tournament in Indian Wells since 2001, the only other time the sisters were scheduled to play each other there.
But that highly anticipated semifinal never went ahead, Venus withdrawing with a tendinitis injury moments before the first point was to be played. In the final the next day, Serena was greeted with boos and jeers during her win against Kim Clijsters.
Citing racial undertones, Serena boycotted the tournament for the next 14 years, while Venus did not play another match there until 2016.