Serena Williams’ first official tournament since becoming a mom in September was cut short by older sister Venus in Indian Wells.
An aunt, yes, but Venus the tennis player put aside feelings of family love to win 6-3 6-4 in the night session Monday in the California desert, serving well for the most part and highlighting how Serena is finding her way again on the tour as she combines motherhood with the demands of professional sport.
It was Venus’ first victory over record 23-time grand slam winner Serena in their last four meetings but Serena still leads their head-to-heads 17-12. It was also their first duel at Indian Wells, 17 years after Venus pulled out of their semifinal with a knee injury.
That triggered ugly scenes, as their father Richard said he was racially abused by fans when Serena then played — and won — the final against Kim Clijsters. Belgium’s Clijsters appeared to be the fan favorite that day, despite the fact the siblings grew up close by in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
Serena didn’t return to Indian Wells until 2015, with Venus not coming back until a year later.
Asked if playing Monday brought closure to what happened in 2001, seven-time grand slam champion Venus replied: “It never crossed my mind.”