AFP INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AFP-Jiji) — Serena Williams set up a mouth-watering Indian Wells third-round showdown against sister Venus with a straight-sets victory over Kiki Bertens on Saturday.
Venus and Serena have faced each other 28 times in their legendary careers, and they will now meet 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 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.
Serena then took center stage, needing just under two hours to dispatch Bertens, of the Netherlands, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.
“I mean, she looked like she never lost a step,” Venus said of her younger sister. “Great way to come back.”
Serena takes a career head-to-head record over Venus of 17-11 into their latest clash.
This is the earliest they will face each other since they met for the first time in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, a match Venus won 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.
In 2001, they were slated to meet in the Indian Wells semifinals 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 that Serena finally ended in 2015. This is just her third appearance in the California desert in 17 years.
Venus is enjoying a resurgence on the Tour after a string of injuries limited her playing time for several seasons.