NEW YORK — Nearly two decades ago, the US Open moved the women’s final to prime time on Saturday night to showcase rising stars Venus and Serena Williams, beaded hair and all.
In their first meeting at the Open in that 2001 final, Venus beat her little sister in straight sets for her second Open crown. A year later, Serena returned the favor and downed her big sister in two sets for her second title in Flushing Meadows.
Now the sisters appear on a collision course yet again, but their meeting would happen in the third round of the US Open on Friday — not in the final. No doubt the tournament would showcase them in prime time in Arthur Ashe Stadium one more time.
“One more match between Serena and Venus at a major, I think would be nice,” four-time US Open champ John McEnroe said Monday on ESPN.
They’re on course to face off in R3.https://t.co/fl9GKpoHZ8
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 28, 2018
But first there is the small matter of their second-round matches.
After cruising past Poland’s Magda Linette on Monday night, No. 17 seed Serena, who turns 37 next month, will face Germany’s Carina Witthöft in the second round on Wednesday. No. 16 Venus, 38, needed three sets in brutal conditions on Monday to advance over former US Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and will next face Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
“Obviously the next match, my opponent is not going to roll over, as well as today,” Venus said. “That’s really my focus. Hopefully we’ll both be there.”
“There’s still several matches to play before you’re there,” Serena said of a possible matchup with big sis.
Whoever wins a potential Serena-Venus matchup caught a major break because that sister won’t have to face No. 1 seed Simona Halep in the fourth round as expected. Halep was sent packing on Monday by Kaia Kanepi.
Serena leads Venus 17-12 all-time, including 3-2 at the US Open. Their most recent meeting in New York came in the 2015 quarterfinals where Serena won in three sets before losing to Roberta Vinci in the semifinals.
Their most recent tour meeting came in March at Indian Wells where Venus beat Serena in straight sets just several months after Serena had given birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia.
Saturday will mark Alexis’ first birthday and Serena says she is still learning how to balance being a mother and a touring tennis professional. She missed Friday’s media day to attend to Alexis who was under the weather.
In New York, she also has to factor in travel time to Queens.
“It’s different because it’s a much further ride away obviously [than at Wimbledon],” Serena said. “I have to take an extra two hours in transit that I’m not going to see her. It’s okay, though. I’m still learning to put my mask on myself. I think this is almost in a weird way helping me.”
As usual with Serena, she is making headlines and chasing history in New York.
After Bernard Giudicelli, the President of the French Tennis Federation, said she wouldn’t be permitted to wear her all-black catsuit in Paris anymore, Serena said she was “fine” with it and that an accomodation might still be reached. She wore the outfit to help with her circulation after almost dying from blood clots following childbirth.
On Monday night, she walked onto the court wearing a black leather biker jacket featuring white stitching. She had on a black one-shoulder silhouette dress underneath.
“It’s easy to play in,” Serena said. “Kind of aerodynamic with the one arm free. It feels really good. Yeah, the tutu is easy to play in because I practiced in it before. That was fun.”
On the history front, Serena has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. In order to make still more history, the six-time US Open champ may have to go through her big sister one more time in prime time.
Venus, of course, has her own agenda.
“Winning matches,” Venus said. “That’s all that matters.”
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