NEW YORK • For the 30th time since becoming professional tennis players, Venus Williams and her younger sister Serena will face one another today in a third-round US Open clash of two of the best to ever play the game.
For years, their matches have been one of the most tantalising fixtures in sport. Fans became accustomed to seeing them compete against each other only at the very end of tournaments, when all the other would-be champions had packed up and gone home.
But here, in the latter stages of their careers, age and family life have created new conditions.
"I wouldn't say it's exciting but it's definitely going to be a really tough match for me," Serena said on Wednesday.
The former world No. 1, who missed a year of playing time because of the birth of her daughter, is the 17th seed. Venus, who has overcome illness and injury to prolong her own remarkable career, is seeded 16th. The luck of the draw determined the rest, placing them in the same quarter.
On Wednesday night, Serena powered her way past Carina Witthoft of Germany 6-2, 6-2 in the second round, and Venus defeated Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5 earlier.
SELECTED DAY 3 RESULTS
MEN'S 2ND RD
Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Steve Johnson (USA) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-1, Kevin Anderson (Rsa) bt Jeremy Chardy (Fra) 6-2 6-4 6-4, John Isner (USA) bt Nicolas Jarry (Chi) 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4, Milos Raonic (Can) bt Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-3 6-4 6-4, Stan Wawrinka (Sui) bt Ugo Humbert (Fra) 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 7-5.
WOMEN'S 2ND RD
Sloane Stephens (USA) bt Anhelina Kalinina (Ukr) 4-6 7-5 6-2, Victoria Azarenka (Blr) bt Daria Gavrilova (Aus) 6-1 6-2, Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) bt Julia Goerges (Ger) 7-6 (12-10) 6-3.
Those results set up the 16th all-Williams Grand Slam meeting, which will come at the earliest point since their first professional encounter in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
"Unfortunately and fortunately, we have to play each other," Serena said. "We make each other better. We bring out the best when we play each other. It's what we do."
She added that today's meeting would be "incredibly hard", even though Venus has not beaten Serena in a Grand Slam event since the 2008 Wimbledon final.
The 36-year-old has had the better of the rivalry against her 38-year-old sibling, leading 17-12 overall and with a 10-5 record in Grand Slam matches.
The last time the sisters played each other at a Grand Slam was in last year's Australian Open final, which Serena won, while pregnant, for her 23rd Major. The American is seeking her seventh US Open title, which would break a tie with Margaret Court for the most Grand Slams in any era.
Venus, whose seven Grand Slam titles include five at Wimbledon and two US Opens, said: "Obviously it's early in the tournament, so both of us are going to be looking forward to continuing to play better.
"It's definitely a tough draw."