WATCH—Stories of the Open Era - Williams sisters at the Open:
When the Williams sisters step onto Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday night for their third-round match at the US Open, most people will think Serena is the favorite—and most numbers point to that, too. But the rivalry isn’t as one-sided as most people would think.
Serena leads Venus in overall meetings, 17-12, and in Grand Slam meetings, 10-5.
The Williams sisters played each other for the first time in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, when a 17-year-old Venus defeated a 16-year-old Serena in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Friday night will be their milestone 30th career meeting. Although Venus dominated the series early on, winning five of their first six meetings between 1998 and 2001, Serena has won 16 of their 23 meetings since then—including eight of their last 10—to build a 17-12 overall head-to-head lead.
Serena’s 10-5 lead in Grand Slam meetings includes a 2-1 record at the Australian Open, a 1-0 record at the French Open, 4-2 at Wimbledon and 3-2 at the US Open. She lost their first meeting here in the 2001 final, but won three of their last four, most recently in the 2015 quarterfinals.
Venus did beat Serena in their only 2018 meeting.
It was Serena’s first tournament back since becoming a mother, but a win is a win. In the third round of Indian Wells, Venus defeated Serena, 6-3, 6-4. She originally served for the match up 5-2 in the second set before Serena broke back and nearly sent the second set into overtime.
“I just feel it’s never over until it’s over, and she just came right back,” Venus said afterwards. “You know, I’m just lucky I played more matches than her right now.”
The key stat in that match: Serena hit 41 unforced errors while Venus had just 19.
But it’s not all about the head-to-head.
There are a lot of other factors that could affect Serena and Venus’ match. Venus has been struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks—she was visibly affected by it in Montreal and withdrew from Cincinnati the next week. But the elder Williams has also beaten much tougher opponents en route to this stage—two-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round, and Wimbledon quarterfinalist Camila Giorgi in the second round.
Meanwhile, Serena has beaten two players who have never even been to the second week of a Grand Slam before.
The Pick: Serena
It is no secret that the Williams sisters do not enjoy playing each other; their father wouldn’t allow them to play each other throughout their junior careers. Tennis pits two competitors, alone, trapped inside a box, fighting to the proverbial death. Both players surely desire to win, but the fiery competitive spirit burning within these competitors is muted. Family first.
However, given all that is at stake for Serena and her epic legacy, every remaining Grand Slam tournament is imperative. A loss would hurt Serena’s legacy much more than it would help Venus’ own. Enjoy this special moment between two legends of the sport.—Cale Hammond
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