Serena Williams was eliminated from her comeback tournament in Indian Wells in the third round, late on Monday night, but she will probably take some consolation from the fact that her beloved sister Venus was the one to knock her out.
The match was fairly straightforward: a 6-3, 6-4 victory for the older Williams in 1hr 26min. It was only the second time in nine years that Venus had come out on top in their increasingly one-sided rivalry. But then, as Venus put it afterwards, “I have had a few more matches”.
Serena had not played at all since the 2017 Australian Open, which she won by beating Venus in the final, because of the arrival of her daughter Alexis Olympia. So to reach the third round – with victories over Zarina Diyas and 29th seed Kik Bertens – represented a decent start, even if the 65 rankings points that Serena collected will barely take her into the world’s top 500.
"It wasn’t easy, obviously,” said Serena afterwards. “It was good to play and try to get in the rhythm and get into the swing again. I can't really replicate the situation no matter how much I do in practice. I make those shots 10 times out of 10 in practice.
"It's just the nerves, the anticipation you feel naturally. It's a little bit of everything that comes in a match that just doesn't normally happen. My room for improvement is incredible. So I have just got to keep saying at each tournament that my goal is just to be better than the last. I don't want to go backwards."
Serena Williams quotes
This was the 29th meeting between the sisters on the tour, but their first in Indian Wells, the tournament that they boycotted for a decade and a half after they received a hostile reception from the crowd in 2001. That flashpoint developed when Venus withdrew from what should have been an all-Williams semi-final because of a knee injury. Some fans leapt to the conclusion that their father, Richard Williams, had organised the walkover deliberately.
Meet the supermums of the WTA tour
After Monday night’s match, Venus was asked whether their belated showdown at Indian Wells had brought closure to the whole unpleasant affair. She replied “It never crossed my mind.”
In the men’s draw, Roger Federer continued his unbeaten run in 2018 – which now stands at 14 matches – by disposing of Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic in comprehensive style, 6-2, 6-1. “I am on a good run right now,” said Federer afterwards. “And I want to maintain that. I have to stay sharp.”