The Williams Sisters, Serena and Venus, has set up a mouth-watering Indian Wells third round showdown after the seven-time Grand Slam winner older sister, Venus Williams, overran Sorana Cirstea with a 6-3, 6-4 victory in Indian Wells on Saturday.
While her sister, Serena Williams, easily strolled pass Kiki Bertens with a straight-sets victory later on Saturday.
Venus and Serena have played 28 times with the most recent being in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, when Serena won 6-4, 6-4.
Venus and Serena have faced each other 28 times in their legendary careers and they are now meeting in Serena’s first tournament back on the WTA Tour since she beat Venus 6-4, 6-4 in the 2017 Australian Open final.
“(We are) having to play each other in the third round, one of us is going to be gone,” Serena said. “I would prefer to play someone else, anybody else, literally anybody else, but it has to happen now. So it is what it is.”
Serena, who lifted her 23rd Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, was then already pregnant with daughter Alexis Olympia, who was born in September.
Venus did her part to set up the marquee match when she dismantled world No. 35 Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-4 in just 79 minutes.
Venus won 61 percent of her first-serve points and broke Cirstea’s serve six times.
She fell behind 3-1 early in the second set but rallied by holding serve in the fifth game. She won four of the final five games of the second set, breaking Cirstea three times to close it out.
Venus is enjoying huge resurgence on the Tour after a string of injuries limited her playing time for several seasons.
The 37-year-old American yesterday moved to the third round where she will face her sister Serena.
Speaking after the match, “It was looking scary in the second set so it was good to pull it out,” “She (Cirstea) played great points.”
“I still have a lot to give. I don’t think my dad wants me to ever stop playing,” the 37-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam champion said.
Speaking about her younger sister, Venus said “I mean, she looked like she never lost a step,” “Great way to come back.”
Serena, 36 and vying to become the first woman to win three Indian Wells titles, clinched the victory against Bertens on her second match point when Bertens blasted a forehand wide.
Serena then took center stage, needing just under two hours to dispatch Bertens, of the Netherlands, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5.
Serena won 54 percent of her second-serve points and broke Bertens’s serve six times.
Still showing some rust from her long layoff, Serena hit just one ace and made 37 unforced errors to 32 for Bertens.
She takes a career head-to-head record over Venus of 17-11 into their third-round clash.
They met for the first time in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open which Venus won 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.
This is the earliest they will face each other since that Melbourne meeting 20 years ago.
Serena, unseeded in the wake of her long layoff, admitted she would have preferred not to come up against her sister so soon in the draw.
“It’s a huge difference to play her in the semi-finals or even the quarter-finals or a final as opposed to the third round. You know, we can always stay in the tournament longer if the both of us are in the tournament,” Serena said.
In 2001 they were slated to meet in the Indian Wells semi-finals when Venus withdrew, handing Serena a walkover.
Fans who felt cheated of a chance to see the siblings play, thinking it was a tactic orchestrated by their father Richard, booed Serena during her final triumph against Kim Clijsters.
The crowd’s treatment led to a 14-year boycott by the sisters, which Serena finally ended in 2015. This is just her third appearance in the California desert in 17 years.
Asked about the semi-final match that never happened, Serena said she has tried to forget.
“That’s totally gone out of my mind,” she said. “First of all, 17 years ago seems like forever ago.”
Venus entered Indian Wells with little match play in 2018, having not competed since a first-round exit in Melbourne. But Serena, of course, is significantly rustier. The 36-year-old is making her comeback after 14 months away, having given birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in September—with complications.
“I’m playing with nothing to lose and only to gain. For me, its a real joy to be out here,” Serena said. “Sometimes I think about those moments. I was in the hospital not even realizing how serious it was until later. Just being able to come through that makes me feel like no matter what happens I know that I’m capable of being strong.
“Whether I win or lose, there’s so much more to my life.”
The world No. 8-ranked Venus should have the advantage on Monday. While Serena was away, she put together an impressive 2017 season (reaching both the Wimbledon and Singapore finals). The fact that the 37-year-old hasn’t played since January can be spun into a great thing: she’s fresher, hungrier and taking great care to manage her schedule.
“I think she’s playing great compared to when she was younger,” Serena said. “Obviously she’s a lot better now, a lot, lot, lot better. But she’s just always been someone that I have admired both on the court and off the court.”