Indian Wells, California, USA: The Williams sisters, Serena and older sibling Venus are set for a third-round showdown at the Indian Wells Masters, also known as BNP Paribas Open, in California, after Serena, 36, on Saturday defeated her second straight opponent as she played on the Tour for the first time in more than a year, beating Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.
But Serena, the former number one seed, showed some creaky play at times, missing a chance to serve it out on her first chance and coming from two break points down on her second to finally secure the win in 1 hour, 52 minutes.
“I’m getting there but I have a long way to go,” Serena said as continued her comeback six months after giving birth. “It definitely felt better than the first round. I’m still a little rusty. I’m still making errors that I don’t normally make. But I call this a trial run, like a trial run of travelling with the baby; all of this is just so new to me.”
Eighth-seeded elder sister Venus did her part through a defeat of Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-4.
The Williams pair last faced off in the final of the 2017 Australian Open – the last event for then pregnant Serena – who also won that title over her sister. Serena Williams has won eight of the last nine meetings against her sister Venus.
In 2001, the two had been scheduled for what turned into a controversial semi-final at the Tennis Garden which ended in a walkover for Serena when Venus could not play due to injury.
“She’s playing really well and just honing her game. When she’s missing, it’s not by much,” Venus said of Serena. “Obviously I have to play better than her and see how the match goes.
“She looks like she never lost a step. I’m really just trying to see what happens. That’s it.”
Second seed Caroline Wozniacki advanced past Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 6-1.
Dubai repeat champion and fourth seed Elina Svitolina advanced past German Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-3, while American Danielle Collins eliminated US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-3, 7-6 (7-1).
German 12th seed Julia Goerges also defeated Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-4, 6-1 and Australian Daria Gavrilova beat Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
In men’s play, Dominic Thiem survived an upset assault by promising Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the Austrian fifth seed earning a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 second-round win.
Thiem beat the youngster for the second time this season, after a Doha win at the start of the season.
The 19-year-old challenger, who reached a career-high 71st ranking this week, missed out on his second career top 10 win after beating Number 10 David Goffin in October in Antwerp.
Thiem has the most wins on the ATP tour this calendar year, claiming his 17th victory in just under two hours, with 10 aces and four breaks of his opponent. He next faces Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, who beat Canadian prodigy Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Tomas Berdych, seeded 12th, booked the first of the third-round spots as he hammered German Maximillian Marterer 6-1, 6-4.
Frenchman Jeremy Chardy upset Italian 16th seed Fabio Fognini 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
EARLIER: Naomi Osaka knocks Out Maria Sharapova In Indian Wells – Former world number one Maria Sharapova has been sent packing from the Indian Wells Masters, also known as BNP Paribas Open, in California, after suffering a two-set 4-6 4-6 defeat from Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka. Naomi’s mother is Japanese while her father is from Haiti.
It was Sharapova’s second consecutive first round match loss.
She continued to struggle for form since she returned to tennis last April following a 15-month doping ban.
Now ranked 41st in the world, Sharapova fought back from early breaks in both sets but ultimately came up short on the key points in a performance that saw her commit six double faults and lose five service games to her 20-year-old opponent.
“I knew (Sharapova) would fight for everything because I’ve watched her since I was little,” world number 44 Osaka said in a courtside interview after winning the first meeting between the pair.
“I was just really honoured to play her.”
A two-time champion at Indian Wells, Sharapova won the Tianjin Open in October for her first triumph since returning to the WTA Tour, but has not come close to challenging for a tournament victory since.
In earlier action, American teenager Amanda Anisimova recorded her first top-level victory with a 6-2 6-2 thrashing of Pauline Parmentier.
The 16-year-old’s poised and polished performance came in stark contact to the dismal display of Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who was humbled 6-3 6-4 by American qualifier Sachia Vickery.
Anisimova, the junior women’s U.S. Open champion, was stronger than the 32-year-old Parmentier in every facet of the game on the slow hard court in Indian Wells. “It’s very exciting. I’ve worked really hard for this so I’m proud of myself,” Anisimova told Tennis Channel, adding that adjusting to the senior ranks had been more mental than physical.
“The biggest thing is being tough mentally. I’ve learned about how to just be stronger during matches.”
She will face Russia’s 23rd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round.
Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, who was also a teenage prodigy but has had her career blighted by injury, also advanced by overcoming an awful start and seeing off a match point to beat Hungarian Timea Babos 1-6 6-1 7-6(4).
Former world number five Bouchard was outclassed by 100th-ranked Vickery in her first match since reaching a settlement with the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) over a locker room fall during the 2015 U.S. Open.
Her weak second serve was particularly costly as Vickery pounced time and again in front of a sparse late-afternoon crowd on centre court.