Set At Indian Wells
Erin Maher | March 12, 2018
All eyes in the tennis world will be focused on the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., Monday night, as Venus Williams faces off against her younger sister Serena in a third-round matchup under the lights. It will be the 29th career meeting between the two sisters, both former No. 1s.
Serena, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champ, is playing her first official WTA Tour tournament since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September. Absent from the tour for 14 months, she’s so far secured two victories in her inaugural tournament comeback. In the first round – her first match since winning the 2017 Australian Open – she scored a 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 53-ranked Zarina Diyas. She followed that up with a 7-6, 7-5 victory over 29th-seeded Kiki Bertens to secure her spot in the third round.
Venus Williams, the tournament’s No. 8 seed, got a bye in the first round, then made light work of Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, defeating the world No. 35, 6-3, 6-4, to reach this point of the tournament and bring her face-to-face with her sister for the first time ever at Indian Wells.
Serena, now 36, leads Venus, 37, in their 28 prior sisterly square-offs by a 17-11 margin, including a win in their last meeting, that in the final of the aforementioned 2017 Aussie Open. But Venus, coming off a year in which she reached the final of two of the four Grand Slam events and played her way back into the Top 10, is again looking very much like a force to be reckoned with in 2018.
"She had such a good year last year, and [she’s] playing fantastic tennis," said Serena of Venus’ recent efforts. "But I’m going to have to play a seed regardless, sooner rather than later most times for the next couple of tournaments. So I have to be ready.”
Venus, for her part, is likewise impressed with Serena’s comeback to this point, abbreviated though it is.
“She's playing really well and just honing her game,” said Venus. “When she's missing, it's not by much. Obviously, I have to play better than her and see how the match goes.”
The two women, who have squared off in nine Grand Slam singles finals, will be meeting at the earliest point in a tour event since their first clash as pros, when Venus scored a 7-6, 6-1 win in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
"Obviously, I wish it was anybody else in the draw, literally anybody,” said Serena. “But that's OK. [I] just have to go out there and see how I am and do my best. I’m just so happy to be out here. Everything is a bonus."