Venus Williams had to come back from behind in both sets of her third round match at the BNP Paribas Open on Monday afternoon, battling past fellow American Christina McHale, 6-2, 7-5.
Venus, who two days earlier rallied from 6-4, 3-0 down to upset No. 3-ranked Petra Kvitova, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, double faulted in the first point of the match against the No. 140-ranked McHale and ended up getting broken in the opening game. But she rebounded, losing just seven points in the next five games to build a 5-1 lead—and after giving one of the breaks back, she broke again for the set.
The second set was even more of a battle as McHale again broke in the first game and built a pair of leads—first she went up 3-1 before Venus caught back up to 3-all, and then McHale opened up a 5-3 lead. But Venus fought back again, this time winning the last four games in a row to seal victory.
“You know, she’s played some really tough matches against Serena before and I’ve watched those, so I have a lot of respect for her,” Venus said of McHale in her on-court interview. “She also came through qualifying - this was her fifth match, so you know she had great rhythm coming into today.
“The second set was nerve-wracking, but I’m happy to keep playing whenever they put me on again.”
Both players struggled with unforced errors in the match, Venus hitting four more unforced errors than winners (24 to 20) and McHale hitting almost twice as many unforced errors on the day (35 to 18).
Venus brought out some of her best tennis on the break points, though, converting seven of her nine break points during the match (McHale, meanwhile, converted four of her nine break points).
The seven-time Grand Slam champion was asked what made the biggest difference between the two.
“Probably experience,” she said. “She had a lot of opportunities today, but I had to wait for mine, and there were a few shots where the ball rolled over the net and I was like, ‘Oh my god, why?’
“But sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, and all you can do is just not think about it.”
Venus is the only Williams still left in the draw after Serena was forced to retire during her third round match against Garbine Muguruza on Sunday due to a viral illness. “I think I’ve watched her win so many times, and those wins just always felt like we were all winning,” she said. “So when she loses, which isn’t often, it’s just a really foreign feeling, to be honest, and probably a shock for everybody.”
Venus has now won 10 of her last 13 matches at Indian Wells, having reached the quarterfinals in 2017 (falling to Elena Vesnina) and the semifinals last year (falling to Daria Kasatkina).
Standing between the American and a third straight quarterfinal at the Premier Mandatory event will be No.97-ranked Mona Barthel, who followed up her 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 second round upset over No. 17 seed Madison Keys with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 third round upset over No.15 seed Julia Goerges on Monday.
Venus has beaten Barthel in straight sets in all three of their previous meetings.