In the latest of what is surely the greatest sibling rivalry tennis has ever seen, arguably that sport has ever seen, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams takes on 7-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams for a place in the fourth round. Neither woman is at her highest ebb, but both are beloved by the New York crowd and both have a real chance to go all the way. A chance that will be all the greater for the victor of this match. But who will come out on top?
This will be the 30th meeting between Serena and Venus and their second of the year. Their first meeting came over two decades ago in the second round at the Australian Open where Venus won 7-6 6-1. Since then they have met in nine Grand Slam finals, including four in a row between 2002 and 2003, with Serena having won seven of those nine. She has also had the upper hand in recent years, but when they met earlier this year in Indian Wells, it was Venus who won.
But Serena also has the advantage in meetings in New York, of which there have been five. Venus won the first in the final in 2001 6-2 6-4, but Serena had her revenge a year later at the same stage, beating her sister 6-3 6-4. They then met again at the US Open in 2005 in the fourth round and Venus emerged a 7-6 6-2 victor though she then lost to Clijsters in the quarters. Serena has won the last two, though, in the last eight in 2008 and 2015.
Path to the third round
Despite personal issues affecting the start of her hard court campaign, Serena acquitted herself well in Cincinnati where she lost a tight second-round encounter with Petra Kvitova and surely arrived in New York in good heart. And her mood can only have been improved by her performance in the first round where she dismantled Magda Linette of Poland 6-4 6-0. Her opponent in the second round, Germany’s Carina Witthoeft, offered no more resistance as Serena won through 6-2 6-2.
Venus’ path to the third round has not been quite so smooth. Handed the difficult first-round draw of 2004 champion and former world #2 Svetlana Kuznetsova she had to battle-hard to keep her perfect record in the opening round at the US Open intact. But she did so, winning 6-3 5-7 6-3 despite some spirited resistance from Kuznetsova. Venus then stayed strong in the vital moments to edge past Wimbledon quarterfinalist Camila Giorgi 6-4 7-5.
How do they match up?
This match will be a battle between two big-hitters for dominance from the baseline. For whilst both are excellent volleyers, and have in fact long been a very successful doubles pairing, this match will primarily be contested from the baseline. Both have big weapons off the ground and huge serves. But where Serena has been able to carve out an advantage is in her consistency and movement. Venus will thus be well aware of the importance of stretching Serena and keeping errors to a minimum.
As great a player as Venus unquestionably is, she has long since been surpassed by Serena and has had to take a fair number of painful losses at the hands of her sister, not least the seven Grand Slam finals she has lost to her. And she may well have to take another loss here. Serena’s title charge is gathering momentum and her aura of invincibility is returning. Venus has the quality to test it, but not shatter it. Serena in three.