The Williams sisters have set up a highly anticipated encounter at Indian Wells, where they have never faced off before.
Serena and older sister Venus will meet in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in the California desert. Serena has clawed her way into competitive form following a 14-month layoff after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Ohanian Jr.
"She looked like she never lost a step," Venus commented on her Serena's tournament play so far. "Great way to come back."
Serena dug deep to beat Dutch Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. While Venus dispatched Romanian Sorona Cirstea 6-3 6-4 to set up the first-time clash.
"I'm getting there. I have such a long way to go," Serena said. "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. But I call this a trial run."
“Everything is a bonus,” Serena explained after the second-round fixture, but added she “would prefer to play someone else, anybody else, literally anybody else” rather than her sister.
"I’m playing with nothing to lose and only to gain. For me, it's a real joy to be out here," Serena said. "Whether I win or lose, there’s so much more to my life."
Controversy brewed in 2001 when the sisters were scheduled to meet in the semi-finals of Indian Wells but Venus withdrew, handing Serena a walkover.
Fans accused the siblings and their father Richard of being duplicitous, leading to Serena being booed during her finals encounter against Kim Clijsters. Following the tournament, the sisters boycott the tournament for the next 14 years before Serena entered in 2015.
The duo last met in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, where Serena edged pass Venus 6-4 6-4 to claim her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.
This will be their 29th competitive meeting. Serena has a 17-11 head-to-head lead.
The sisters first played each other in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, which Venus won 7-6 (7/4), 6-1. This is the earliest they will face each other since then.
Serena, at 36-years-old, is hoping to become the first woman to win three Indian Wells titles.
The sister will play each other on Monday, Serena is currently unseeded and Venus is ranked eighth in the world.