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Tennis From News Flash From BNP Paribas Open • Venus Williams Vanquishes Serena Williams

Venus Williams of the USA in action against her sister Serena Williams of the USA during the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, USA, 12 March 2018. EPA-EFE/MIKE NELSON



INDIAN WELLS—They grew up sharing a tiny bedroom and big dreams.


Venus and Serena Williams shared the stage again tonight.


Seventeen years after their scheduled Indian Wells semifinal that Serena won in in a walkover, Venus played proactive power tennis showing her younger sister the door, 6-3, 6-4, to storm into the Indian Wells round of 16.


It was Venus’ first victory over Serena since the 2014 Montreal semifinals and her first straight-sets win over younger sister since a 7-5, 6-4 conquest in the 2008 Wimbledon final.


“Her level is super high and it was very difficult to close out the match, just getting one ball back,” Venus said. “Like I said, I have had a few more matches. Even though I haven’t even played that much this year, the matches in the last year count.”


Straddling the baseline, big sister served with more authority and struck with conviction.


The 37-year-old Venus broke serve four times, smacked six aces, routinely rocked the radar gun with 115 mph first serves and denied three of the five break points she faced.


“I think this is the best she’s played in a while,” Serena said. “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.


“I definitely know her well, but she definitely played a little bit better than she normally does today.”


A superior second serve—combined with the fact she plays with more spin on every shot—had empowered Serena to claim eight of their last nine meetings as she carried a 17-11 career edge onto the court tonight.


Playing just her third match since giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian last September, Serena struggled to shake off the rust and and control her forehand return at the outset.


“It’s different. 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.


In their first meeting since squaring off in the Australian Open final that was the oldest WTA Grand Slam final in Open Era history, fans greeted episode 29 of the Williams sisters rivalry with electric buzz.


It felt like a celebration of their shared journey and remarkable longevity.


Ultimately, Venus was in no mood for nostalgia.


Both sisters had their game faces on as they posed shoulder-to-shoulder for the pre-match photo.


“I hate playing her she gets this look on her face where she just looks sad if she’s losing,” Serena told Vogue Magazine last month. “Solemn. It breaks my heart. So when I play her now, I absolutely don’t look at her, because if she gets that look, then I’ll start feeling bad, and the next thing you know I’ll be losing. I think that’s when the turning point came in our rivalry, when I stopped looking at her.”


Both denied break points in their opening service games.


Serena spit out a double fault then watched her sister buzz a backhand blast down the line breaking for 2-1.


That strike loosened up the 37-year-old Venus, who tore through eight straight points. Hitting off her front foot, Venus hammered shots into the corners reeling off 12 of 14 points in rushing through three straight games for a 5-2 lead.


Serving for the set, Venus closed with command whipping an ace wide for triple set point then slamming a 120 mph ace seizing a one-set lead after 36 minutes.


Breaking to start the second set, Venus turned her hips and shoulders into some vicious forehands and when a rattled Serena dumped another double fault Venus had the break and a 3-0 second-set lead.


The 23-time Grand Slam champion answered with her best tennis of the night using a clever drop shot-lob combination and damaging diagonal forehand to break back. Sliding an ace out wide, Serena closed the gap to 2-3 at the one-hour mark.


Every time her younger sister made a push, Venus had an authoritative answer.


The eighth seed held at love then cranked an inside-out forehand winner breaking for 5-2 after 70 minutes.


Still, Serena wasn’t done. She bolted a backhand pass down the line to save match point and broke back on Venus’ eighth double fault.


That spirited stand prompted her support box—husband Alexis Ohanian, coach Patrick Mouratoglou and agent Jill Smoller—to rise from their seats in unison urging the former No. 1 to continue her charge.


On this night, Venus would not be denied. Though she showed signs of skittishness netting a pair of forehands down the line, Venus closed on one final Serena error embracing her sister at net.


Venus will face 21st-seeded Anastasija Sevastova for a quarterfinal spot.


Earlier today, Roger Federer called the Williams sisters’ rise from the cracked public courts of Compton, California to the grandest stages in the sport an “incredibly fascinating story.”


Sometimes their story overshadows their actual matches.


Because the sisters both play aggressive first-strike tennis their points can play out like declarative bursts rather than intertwining dialogue.


Venus had the final word tonight but both will be heard from again this season.


“Honestly have to get focused for the next match,” Venus said. “I’m playing a completely different player, new challenges. I really already was resetting, because the tournament is far from over.”

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