WASHINGTON (AFP) – Serena Williams rallied to defeat sister Venus Williams 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday night in a second-round matchup of Grand Slam champions at the WTA Top Seed Open.
Top-seeded Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, said the victory will boost her confidence heading into the US Open as she improved to 19-12 in the 22-year-old rivalry with Venus.
“I wanted to win this for my game and my confidence,” said Serena, whose only title as a mother came in January at Auckland.
“I honestly didn’t come here to win (a title) for the first time in my career. I just came here to get some matches. I haven’t had this much time off since I had the baby.”
Ninth-ranked Serena is one shy of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles and she is preparing to chase a seventh career US Open singles crown at Flushing Meadows.
Serena smacked a cross-court forehand winner to break Venus for a 2-1 lead in the third set, then dropped the next four games, only to break again in the seventh on another forehand cross-court winner, then hold to 4-4.
Serena zipped a backhand cross-court winner past Venus to break for a 5-4 lead and served out the match, aided by an umpire over-rule ace to reach 30-30.
Serena followed the call with her 14th ace and won after two hours and 19 minutes when Venus sent a forehand beyond the baseline.
“The last couple games I just wanted to win because I’ve been losing a lot of those tight sets,” Serena said. “I just tried to focus on those last two games.”
Serena improved to 100-110 after losing the first set, the best of any active WTA players. In the Williams sisters rivalry, the first-set winner has taken 26 of 31 meetings.
“This was right up there,” Serena said. “I’d say it was one of the all-time top five super-competitive matches between the two of us.”
Serena had six double faults and hit 67 per cent of her first serves while winning 46 per cent of second-serve points and taking five-of-15 break points in her first event since February’s Fed Cup.
Venus, ranked 67th, had six aces with 11 double faults. The seven-time Grand Slam champion ousted Victoria Azarenka in the first round.
“She played unbelievable,” Serena said of Venus. “She’s doing so good. I honestly don’t know how I was able to pull it off at the end. She played so well.”