The legendary Williams sisters clash for the 31st time in their careers in Lexington on Thursday: How will Venus’s remodelled…
The legendary Williams sisters clash for the 31st time in their careers in Lexington on Thursday: How will Venus’s remodelled serve stand up to Serena’s return?
Serena vs Venus is live from Lexington on Thursday 13 August, 12.30pm local/5.30pm BST
Just a few days into the first WTA Tour event to be played on US soil since the sport was abruptly shut down in March and already tennis fans have a genuine superstar clash to enjoy: Serena and Venus Williams, with 30 Grand Slam titles between them in singles alone, facing off for the 31st time.
Top seed Serena narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of world no. 60 Bernarda Pera in the first round while Venus breezed past fellow former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka in straight sets – the form suggests a win for Venus but her younger sister leads the head-to-head 17-12.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
How to watch Serena vs Venus live
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Serena vs Venus: Head-to-head
Younger sister Serena leads the head-to-head 18-12, with a narrow 11-9 advantage in hard-court matches.
Serena has also won four of the last five matches the pair have played, although encounters have become rare in recent years – only four in the past five years.
Serena vs Venus: Preview
The return of the two most famous women in tennis to competition after a six-month absence was accomplished in contrasting style as Serena and Venus played their first-round matches in the unusually humble surroundings of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, with no fans in the stands.
Serena’s lack of match fitness was glaringly obvious as she dropped the first set to world no. 60 Bernarda Pera, whose sharpness off the ground was ample proof of the benefits of playing World Team Tennis during the WTA hiatus. Pera was on the brink of a famous victory, recovering an early break in the second set before climbing to 0-40 on the Williams serve at 4-4. Serena went into problem-solving mode, adjusting her return position to cut off Pera’s lefty serve wide and raising her intensity to compensate for the lack of atmosphere, and once she had broken Pera to level the match was able to dominate the decider.
Where Serena shone was in saving 11 of the 12 break points she faced in the second set, but six double faults cost her and it was shocking how easily Pera bullied her from the back of the court behind that effective wide delivery for the first set and a half.
Venus, following on court later, faced an on-paper tougher opponent in two-time Grand Slam champion and former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka – but Azarenka has been a shadow of herself for some time. The same criticism could have been levelled at Venus, currently ranked world no. 67, in recent years but despite turning 40 during the shutdown, the American is by no means ready to hang up her racquets. The most noticeable feature of Venus’s 6-3, 6-2 victory over Azarenka was the remodelled service action she debuted: A lower ball toss and abbreviated takeback, presumably to alleviate the elbow and arm injuries which have blighted the past couple of seasons.
Taking the load off the ageing body might have been the goal, but the result is a streamlined service motion which proved extraordinarily effective against Azarenka, one of the game’s finest returners: Venus faced only one break point, serving at 70% and winning 70% and 61% behind first and second serves respectively.
Recording those numbers against Azarenka, who’s played and lost one match in 2020, is one thing; doing it against Serena is another. It might take the younger sister a set to adjust to Venus’s new service motion, as it took her a set (and a bit) to adjust to Pera, and this could be the first Williams sister clash in six years to go the distance, but Serena can test that new service motion and under pressure it will fail to keep delivering the winners.