‘Here we go’: Williams sisters set up clash as tennis returns in US

Serena Williams battled to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Bernarda Pera in the opening round of the Top Seed Open to set up a second round clash with sister Venus

Venus and Serena Williams at the 2017 Australian Open presentation ceremony

Serena Williams marked her return to tennis with a back-from-the-brink victory over Bernarda Pera in the opening round of the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old Williams, who was a point away from being a set and break down, defeated Pera 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 16 minutes, to set up a blockbuster second round against sister Venus.

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“It’s good just in general because I haven’t played. A lot of players have been playing – little things and little matches and playing against other players – but I’ve only been training so this was really good for me,” Serena said of her win over Pera.

Earlier in the day, Venus defeated former World No 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-3 6-2. This was Venus’ first victory of the year, having lost in the opening round at the Australian Open, Mexican Open (Acapulco) and the Monterrey Open.

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The Top Seed Open is the first competitive tournament to be played in the USA, which has been hit hardest by the pandemic, since the Covid-19 outbreak forced tennis to shutdown in March.

“It was a really calm atmosphere, it was really chill,” Serena said, on playing in front of empty stands.

“I can’t say I disliked it. I didn’t mind it at all. I’ve been through so many things in my career and this was totally different. I think I won today because I was calm for once in my career. Kind of reminds me of junior days. Something nostalgic about that. I kind of enjoyed it.”

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Serena, who will resume her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open in New York later this month, added: “Being in New York will be a little different because there’s this massive stadium.”

The Williams sisters will clash for the 31st time in their career when they face-off in the second round in Lexington.

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“’From one Grand Slam (winner), one No. 1 to another,” Venus, who trails his sister 12-18 in head-to-head meetings, said of their upcoming contest.

“’It’s been quite the draw for me but, honestly, it’s perfect because I don’t play forever so I want to play the best players. And I think I got my wish. Here we go.”