Serena's return is cut short by Venus

Indian Wells: Serena Williams's return to tournament tennis came to an abrupt end here Monday as she crashed out of Indian Wells with a 6-3, 6-4 loss to her sister Venus.

Venus closed out the 29th career meeting between the two on her second match point as Serena sailed a forehand long to end the third round match.

The 10th seeded Venus moves on to the round of 16, where she will face either Anastasija Sevastova.

It was the first meeting between the two sisters since they clashed in the final of the 2017 Australian Open which Serena won before taking a 15-month hiatus due to her pregnancy.

It is rare for the Williams sisters to play this early in a tournament. It is the earliest they have faced each other since their first encounter at the Australian Open in 1998.

The sisters arrived outside the stadium together on a golf cart then walked through the tunnel with Serena entering the court first with many in the crowd standing and cheering.

Venus blasted six aces but had eight double faults in the one hour 26 minutes main stadium match. Serena is still shaking off the rust after the long layoff as she hit four aces but had her serve broken four times.

This was their first encounter with Venus as an aunt and Serena as a new mother after giving birth to her baby daughter, Alexis Olympia, on September 1.

Venus's victory also comes 17 years after an ugly booing incident led to a 14-year boycott of the tournament by the sisters. But for some it brought closure to the once testy relationship between Indian Wells and the sisters who hail from the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.

Serena still leads their sibling rivalry, 17-12, and has won eight of their last 10 matches. But Venus now has her first victory over Serena since 2014.

"I definitely know her well," said Serena of Venus. "But she definitely played a little better than she normally does today."

Serena said she could not find her range consistently.

"I can't really replicate the situation no matter how much I do in practice," she said. "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."

Serena is understandably still searching for consistency and timing and was often off balance on Monday. But it is tempting to believe that when she gets her fitness and footwork right, the rest of the tennis world should resume watching out.

"I have a lot to improve on," she said.



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