Reem Abulleil takes a closer look at the Venus and Serena Williams third round that took place at Indian Wells on Monday.
Serena played three matches following a 404-day break from the sport during which she had her first child, Olympia, and got married.
Playing with a protected ranking, but unseeded at tournaments, the luck of the draw pit Serena against Venus in the third round at Indian Wells.
It is the earliest they had faced off since the very first time they played against one another at the 1998 Australian Open (not including WTA Finals round-robin matches).
Here are the biggest takeaways from Serena and Venus’ 29th meeting…
RUSTY BUT NOT TOO MUCH
Serena is understandably rusty, which was evident from the 31 unforced errors she committed against Venus. But the 36-year-old wasn’t missing by much, producing 22 winners compared to her sister’s 19 and showcasing some deft touches with drop shots and lobs that briefly interrupted Venus’ rhythm.
VENUS CAN BRING IT ON DEMAND
Heading into Indian Wells, Venus had played just four matches in 2018, losing her openers in Sydney and the Australian Open and winning her two Fed Cup singles rubbers against the Netherlands. But just as we saw from her last season, she is able to up her game at the big events and when it matters the most. The 37-year-old played some of the best tennis we’ve seen from her in a while, with her all-out attack game working perfectly for most of the match.
The world No. 8 painted the lines with rocket-like groundstrokes and showed no signs of rust, despite her lack of match play this season.
“I think this is the best she’s played in a while. She didn’t make a lot of errors. She served very consistently. You know, she just did everything great. For her, I think it was a really good match,” said Serena on Venus after their match.
UP FOR THE FIGHT
One thing that is very apparent is that Serena is determined to make her way back to the top of the game. We’ve seen it on the court with her battling wins over Zarina Diyas and Kiki Bertens, as well as her loss to Venus on Monday. Serena saved 4/8 break points she faced, broke Venus as she was serving for the match the first time and created a break point opportunity in the final game before surrendering.
We’ve also been seeing it off the court in her rhetoric during press conferences.
“Missing shots that I never miss, and so close. At least they’re in the margin. I’m getting there. It’s not exactly where I want to be, but, I mean, I’ll get there eventually,” Serena said on Monday.
“I haven’t played in over a year. It’s definitely not less disappointing. I wish it were, but it’s not. But then again, I wish it wasn’t. Then I wouldn’t be who I am. Yeah, so I just have a long way to go, and I’m looking forward to the journey.”
She also seems to have the right person in her corner to help her throughout that journey, in her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
“If I expect a lot of myself, he expects a little bit more, which is interesting,” Serena said of Mouratoglou.
“But it’s good, because I have such high standards. And to work with someone that has even higher expectations is exactly what I need.”