So is it now time to call Serena Williams the “Baby Boomer?”
Serving 10 aces without a single “C’mon” and dominating from the outset, Serena beat sister Venus at the U.S. Open on Friday night in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium in their 30th meeting over two decades.
It was on Sept. 1 last year that Serena gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia during the middle of the U.S. Open. There were complications and it was a long road back to the game, which culminated in a loss to Venus at Indian Wells in March. But a run to the final at Wimbledon where she lost to Angelique Kerber showed she was clearly on track.
Typically, there was little emotion shown by the sisters, going about their business in a taciturn fashion in the third-round match. Winning points weren’t celebrated, losing ones weren’t moaned over. With her serve on overdrive and winning 88 percent of her first-serve points, Serena prevailed fairly easily, 6-1, 6-2 in what she called the best match of her return.
Venus thinks it was somewhat more than that.
“I think it's the best match she's ever played against me,” Venus said. “I don't think I did a lot wrong. But she just did everything right. Obviously that level is definitely where she's going to want to stay during this whole tournament.
“The only thing I maybe could have done was put more first serves in. She returned the first serve really well. Any shot that I hit great, she hit a greater shot. Not a lot I can do.”
As easy as it was athletically for Serena, it was difficult emotionally. “It’s not easy, she’s my best friend,” Serena said on court. “She means the world to me. Every time she loses I feel like I have. There’s so much more to life to than just playing tennis.”
There was an anxious moment for the crowd in the second game of the first set when Venus wrong-footed Serena and she rolled her right ankle trying to stop. Serena stood with her back to the court for several seconds and when she turned around she signaled to the chair umpire to call a trainer at the next break. That would come after she held serve for 2-1. She got it taped on a medical timeout and it never slowed her down.
Venus struggled with Serena’s serve, the biggest in the women’s game, and only was able to produce one break point, in the second game of the second set. It went unrequited.
This was the sixth time they’ve met at Flushing Meadows. Serena holds a 4-2 advantage in Open matches and an overall advantage of 18-12. This was the 16th time they’ve met in a Grand Slam where Serena now is up 10-6. The last time Venus beat her in a Slam final was Wimbledon in 2008, which is also the last time Venus won a Slam.
They first met at the Open in the 2001 final, which Venus won 6-2, 6-4, the second of her two consecutive Open victories. Serena beat Venus in the final the next year. Venus won in the round of 16 in 2005 and Serena won the last two, in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2015.
This is the earliest the two have met in a Grand Slam since the 1998 Australian, a product of the fact that Venus is seeded 16th and Serena was given a 17th seed by the USTA. She is 26th in the rankings but the USTA elevated her based on her championship history.
Now she has a chance to make more history here and she gets Kaia Kanepi in the round of 16. As to whether it was it was her best match ever against her sister, she replied: “By far the best match I’ve played against her, maybe not ever-ever, but it was the best match since my return.”
That return goes on.