Rarely has a meeting between the two Williams sisters been more poignant but Venus brought Serena’s competitive comeback to an abrupt end at Indian Wells.
Just 125 miles from the Compton courts where the siblings were first put through paces by their father Richard and 20 years since their first encounter on tour, the third-round match-up was a nod to the pair’s longevity.
It was Venus, at 37 the older of the sisters by 15 months, who had the upper hand. Her 6-3, 6-4 win ended Serena’s first tournament since the pair last met in the 2017 Australian Open final, that day a different Williams sister taking home the spoils.
Six months after the birth of her daughter, Serena, with two wins already in the event, was buoyed despite the novelty of such an early exit.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to play Venus so early on but it can happen,” said Serena, who still boasts a 17-12 advantage in their head to head.
“It wasn’t easy. 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. It’s good that I don’t have to say that this is the best tennis I have played and I lost. 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.”
The normally reliable Serena serve was broken four times in a match that was over within an hour and a half but so hyped that it was watched by 10,000 spectators, among them world No1 Simona Halep.
Venus said Serena would be back in the ascendancy before long. She said: “I think she’s going to be speeding back to the seedings and to winning tournaments sooner rather than later.”