Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Serena Williams: Taking on sister Venus is 'the ultimate rivalry'

The 23-time major winner discusses why her older sibling brings out the best in her as she prepares for their match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Serena Williams competed in the inaugural Mubadala World Tennis Championship women's match last year against Jelena Ostapenko. Getty Images
Serena Williams competed in the inaugural Mubadala World Tennis Championship women's match last year against Jelena Ostapenko. Getty Images

Serena Williams has promised UAE tennis fans a "thrilling" watch when she steps on court on Thursday at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) against her sister Venus in an exhibition match.

It will be the second time that Williams competes at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City, having played her first match since becoming a mother 12 months ago when she faced Jelena Ostapenko.

This time the 23-time major winner is up against her older sibling, and she told The National that she is excited by the match-up.

"This is going to be thrilling," the 37 year old said. "I love that Venus and I have had the ultimate rivalry.

"I have never played anyone I respect more and am wary of more than her. We, year after year – and now I can say decade after decade – bring out the best in each other."

The pair have met 30 times on the WTA Tour, with Serena leading the head-to-head 18-12.

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Nine of those clashes were in grand slam finals and Williams believes that Venus, who has seven major titles of her own, has always made her raise her game.

"Venus really brings out the best in me," she added. "It is never easy playing your best friend but she knows my game inside out, and has been so successful over me so many times. She is my role model and sister and best friend all rolled up into one. I could not be more fortunate to have her as my sister."

Williams has been used to making history and breaking new ground throughout her career. Last December, she and Ostapenko became the first female players to participate at the MWTC.

Her appearance attracted the attention of the world's media given she was playing just three months after she had given birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia.

Williams ended up losing to Ostapenko – going down 10-5 in the champions' tie-break after she had come back from losing the first set 2-6 to take the second 6-3. Despite the result, Williams said she enjoyed the event and is looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi.

Serena Williams was in action in Abu Dhabi in December 2017. Nezar Balout / AFP
Serena Williams in action in Abu Dhabi in December 2017. AFP

"I loved that experience," she said. "I had just gotten back into tennis after having my daughter and I really did not know what to expect. I have to say I surprised myself. I looked forward to being back and surprising myself again."

The match between the Williams sisters is the final match of the first day of action on Thursday at the 11th staging of the MWTC.

They are due on court on at 8pm, after the two men's quarter-finals. Defending champion Kevin Anderson is first on court at 4pm when he goes up against Chung Hyeon, before Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov face off at 6pm.

Friday sees Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal enter the fray. World No 1 Djokovic will face the winner of Thiem v Khanchanov in one semi-final, while four-time MWTC champion Nadal goes up against either Anderson or Chung.

Saturday starts with the third-place play-off before the final gets under way at 7pm.

Updated: December 22, 2018 04:23 PM

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