Venus beats Ser­ena in clash at in­fa­mous In­dian Wells

South Florida Times - - SPORTS - By AP Sports Writer

BETH HAR­RIS

Venus Wil­liams has de­feated younger sis­ter Ser­ena 6-3 6-4 in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at In­dian Wells, her first win in the sib­ling ri­valry since 2014.

It was the sis­ters' ear­li­est meet­ing since a 17-year-old Venus beat 16-year-old Ser­ena in the sec­ond round of the 1998 Aus­tralian Open. They played Mon­day night (Tues­day NZT) for the first time since last year's Aus­tralian Open fi­nal, when a preg­nant Ser­ena won her 23rd grand slam ti­tle.

Venus closed out the match on her sec­ond match point when Ser­ena's fore­hand ser­vice re­turn sailed long. It was one of Ser­ena's 41 un­forced er­rors, in­clud­ing 17 on the fore­hand side.

Ser­ena still owns a 17-12 advantage over­all, al­though Venus evened their WTA Tour head-to-head meet­ings at 7-7.

"I re­ally ab­hor ev­ery time we play, but I do en­joy the bat­tle when I'm out there,'' Ser­ena said last week­end. “It's just af­ter­wards I don't like it as much.''

Venus Wil­liams re­turns a shot to her op­po­nent and sis­ter Ser­ena at BNP Paribas Open.

It was ob­vi­ous at the net when they greeted each other with a one-arm hug and nei­ther smiled. Venus did her usual vic­tory pirou­ette, but still didn't smile.

A stone-faced Ser­ena ex­ited the court to cheers, point­ing her right in­dex fin­ger in the air.

Ser­ena was back on the WTA Tour for the first time since end­ing a 14-month ab­sence dur­ing which she gave birth to daugh­ter Alexis Jr. and mar­ried Red­dit co­founder Alexis Oha­nian, who sat court­side.

Typ­i­cally, the sis­ters wouldn't meet un­til the later rounds of a tour­na­ment. But 36year-old Ser­ena was un­seeded in this event. Venus, 37, is seeded eighth.

Ser­ena won her first two matches, while Venus re­ceived a first-round bye and won her open­ing match.

The In­dian Wells match was 17 years in the mak­ing.

The sis­ters were sup­posed to play each other in the Cal­i­for­nian desert in 2001. A packed sta­dium awaited their semi­fi­nal but shortly be­fore the match was to be­gin Venus with­drew with a right knee in­jury.

Ser­ena went on to play Kim Cli­jsters in the fi­nal. Venus and her fa­ther Richard were greeted with boos as they made their way to their seats, with some fans be­liev­ing Richard had been be­hind Venus' with­drawal.

Richard Wil­liams said he heard racial slurs from the crowd and he paused to shake his fist at them. Ser­ena was booed through­out the fi­nal be­fore she beat Cli­jsters in three sets for her sec­ond ti­tle in the desert.

After that, the sis­ters boy­cotted In­dian Wells for 14 years. Ser­ena came back in 2015 only to with­draw with a knee in­jury be­fore her semi­fi­nal, and Venus fol­lowed the next year.

Both sis­ters have been greeted warmly by fans each time they've played here since that tur­bu­lent time.

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