The night in Indian Wells belongs to Venus and Serena Williams. Venus clinched a 6-3 6-4 win to seal a berth in the round 16 against Anastasia Sevastova. WTA Finals apart, this is earliest round the sisters have faced each other since first meeting at 1998 Australian Open.
Venus claimed the 12th win against her sister in 29 matches, the first since 2014 Montreal, in the semis, their latest non Grand Slam match up. Making her seventh appearance at Indian Wells, and third since 2001, after an absence of 15 years, Venus continued her bid to reach the third semifinal here, where she beat a Top 10 for the first time in 1997 on the run to the quarter-finals.
The oldest in women’s singles draw at 2018 Indian Wells became the fourth player to beat Serena in the tournament history after Dechaume-Balleret (1997 qualifying – only second professional match of career), Pierce (quarter-finals 2000) and Azarenka (final 2016).
Serena and Venus Williams have played a combined 1,886 career main draw matches, while the eight players through to the Round of 16 in the top half of the draw amassed a combined 1,297 matches. That alone would explain the hype surrounding the match and the atmosphere of the 29th Sister Act, in the same stadium where Venus announced a walkover for a tendonitis in 2001.
Serena would beat Clijsters in the title match and promise to come back the following year, but Richard Williams revealed the level of racial insults against Serena and Serena opted to boycott the tournament, with Venus on her side, for 15 years.
Venus was too soolid today for Serena, who hit too 17 unforced errors only in the opening set. But Serena, who simply loves competing as she said after beating Cirestea, will only get better with more matches and tournaments.
The former No.1 looks predictably rusty having played her first competitive singles match 404 days after the 2017 Australian Open final. Unseeded at a tournament for the first time since Cincinnati in 2011, Serena struggled to counter Venus when her sister attacked her forehand with her deep and flat groundstrokes.
The older sister tried to move her opponent who started very aggressively on return games. “She played so well and it was I think such a treat for everyone to see this match so early in her comeback" said Venus in the on court interview.
She sealed the first set with an ace in 36 minutes and used her powerful crosscourt forehands to open up the court and put pressure on Serena. But tension mounted so Serena saw an opportunity to comeback. Helped by a perfect dropshot, Serena broke back to cut Venus’ lead down to 3-2.
Venus extended her lead once more to 5-2 and missed the first match point, but Venus failed to slam the door in a nervy game and double-faulted on break point. Venus still held the one break cushion, and managed to serve it out on the second time as Serena returns long, to seal her first straight sets win over her sister since th 2008 Wimbledon final.
"Who would have ever thought at 37 years old that you wold be back at the top of the mountain and playing this kind of tennis, what does the journey feel like to you?" the interviewer Krasny asked her after the match "Well Andrew I never go around talking about how old you are" she joked in reply.
But her message was more serious. “I’m from right down the street in Compton, California. It just shows that no matter wherever you come from, if you put in the work and you believe win yourself you can do anything" .
More to come .