Serena Williams on Saturday continued her comeback with a 7-6 (7/5), 7-5 win over Kiki Bertens at the BNP Paribas Open, setting up a third-round encounter with her sister, Venus.
Serena, who is returning to the sport after taking more than a year away to have a baby, was ragged at times, but used her power to wear down the Dutch 29th seed in Indian Wells, California.
“I’m getting there. I have such a long way to go,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion told reporters. “It definitely felt better than the first round, but I’m still a little rusty. I’m still making errors that I don’t normally make. I call this a trial run of traveling with the baby, and all of this is just so new to me.”
Venus moved into the third round by beating Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-4 in the preceding match.
Today’s meeting is to be the earliest between the Williams sisters since their first professional match in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
It is to be the 29th between the pair, with Serena leading the head-to-head record 17-11.
That record includes a walkover victory for Serena at Indian Wells in 2001, when Venus pulled out minutes before their scheduled semi-final citing a knee injury.
Spectators vented their displeasure with the withdrawal during the final, booing Serena and jeering her sister and father Richard Williams, when the pair arrived to watch the match. Richard Williams alleged he had heard racist taunts.
Serena boycotted the event until 2015.
“Obviously, I wish it was anybody else in the draw, literally anybody, but that’s okay,” she said. “I really abhor every time we play, but I do enjoy the battle when I’m out there. It’s just afterward I don’t like it as much.”
Venus recovered from a breakdown in the second set against Cirstea, winning five consecutive games to close it out.
“It takes me a few games, a few matches before hopefully you get it where you want it to be,” said the No. 8 seed after her first match in a month. “[I was] just trying to work the point, do what it takes to win the point. I haven’t played in a long time.”
Also moving into the third round was defending champion Elena Vesnina, who beat American Catherine Bellis 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Danish second seed Caroline Wozniacki beat Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena 6-4, 6-1, while Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina defeated German Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-3.
Seeds Madison Keys (15), Magdalena Rybarikova (18) and Anett Kontaveit (28) all lost on Saturday.
In the men’s defending champ Roger Federer’s opening match was put on hold when play was suspended after heavy rain.
The 36-year-old had taken a set from Federico Delbonis 6-3 with the second tied at 2-2 when rain stopped play.
The start of the match had been delayed several minutes by light rain in a precursor of worse weather to come.
With the showers expected to continue, organizers suspended play for the night, with the match to resume yesterday.
Earlier, world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov slumped to a shock 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-3 defeat to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.
Dimitrov continues to struggle in Indian Wells. The Bulgarian No. 1 has never made it past the third round in seven appearances.
Additional reporting by AFP
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