In their 31st meeting in the past 22 years, Serena Williams took down her older sister Venus 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 19 minutes in the second round in Lexington. For the second match in a row, Serena had to come from a set down, raising her level and advancing into the quarter-final in her first WTA tournament since the Australian Open.
Serena won five points more than Venus, firing 14 aces and losing serve four times, doing enough to beat the sister for the 19th time. Venus defended ten out of 15 break opportunities, giving her best but settling with the second-round exit.
In the opening set, Venus fended off four out of five break chances and grabbed two return games to move in front. Serena earned a break in the first game when Venus hit a loose forehand. The 23-time Major champion held after deuce in game two with a service winner to confirm the advantage, creating three more break opportunities a few minutes later.
Venus repelled them all to remain within one break deficit, gathering momentum from there and breaking back at 15 when Serena sent a backhand wide in game four. Venus landed a deep return that Serena failed to control in game six, forging a 4-2 advantage and saving a break point a few minutes later to move further ahead.
Serving at 5-3, the 40-year-old showed no sign of nerves, blasting a service winner to secure the opener in style. Serena started to play better in set number two, adding more power to her strokes and dropping only eight points in five service games.
Venus couldn't match those numbers, struggling in the middle of the set and falling behind when her younger sister claimed a break at 3-2. Serena held at 15 in the first game with an ace and produced another comfortable hold with a forehand winner that pushed her 2-1 in front.
Venus survived two break chances in the fourth game, unable to do the same two games later when Serena landed a perfect backhand down the line winner that sent her 4-2 in front.
In her comeback tournament, Serena Williams seeks form and matches.
The 23-time Major champion closed the set when Venus placed a forehand into the net in the ninth game, earning boost and standing as the favorite ahead of the decider.
They returned to the court after heat break and Serena grabbed a break with a forehand winner at 1-1, wasting her chances in game four and allowing Venus to break back with a forehand winner of her own. The older sister had the upper hand in those moments, breaking Serena in game six to take a big step towards the finish line.
Refusing to surrender, Serena fired a forehand crosscourt winner to reduce the deficit and stay in contention, holding after deuce in game eight to lock the result at 4-4. World no. 9 claimed the third straight game with a beautiful backhand down the line winner for a crucial break and a 5-4 advantage.
With two aces, Serena earned a match point in the tenth game, sealing the deal after a forehand error from Venus to move into the quarters. "I've lost a few tight sets lately, so I told myself I really wanted to win this one and try to focus on those last two games.
I'm super relaxed; having no crowd sort of makes things more relaxing. I've practiced in louder places than this court! I honestly didn't come here to win. For the first time in my career, I came here to win some matches and see what happens.
I haven't had this much time off since the baby, so now I'm just trying to get some rhythm and see what happens," Serena Williams said.