Rome - Serena Williams will take on sister Venus in the second round of the
Italian Open more than two decades after they last met on the red clay
of Rome after both advanced in different styles on Monday.
Rome winner Serena, 37, returned after two months out injured easing
through 6-4, 6-2 against Swedish qualifier Rebecca Petersen.
38-year-old Venus, whose only Rome title came back in 1999, needed over
three hours to battle past Belgian Elise Mertens 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4).
has not played since a hard-fought three-set win also over Petersen in
the second round at the Miami Open in March before withdrawing with a
The 23-time Grand Slam winner - now ranked 11th - also withdrew from Indian Wells in March complaining of illness.
by her husband Alexis Ohanian, Williams sealed victory on her second
match point against her 64th-ranked opponent after 76 minutes on court.
"I felt good, I wasn't sure how it was going to feel," said Williams.
"It's been a while, I haven't played a ton of matches this year, not by choice, just by force.
"I really, really, actually desperately wanted to be on the tour and to be playing, but it hasn't been able to work out.
"It felt good to finally be back out. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up."
her lack of practice, tenth-seeded Williams was never threatened by
Peterson, despite 22 unforced errors by the American in the first set.
"I haven't been able to train or practice a lot, I was out much longer than I expected," she explained.
"I did everything I could to stay fit and keep my cardio up.
"I love the clay season and wanted to do everything to be a part of it and I'm here.
just been on this diet basically. It's been awful. When you're
sedentary, it becomes hard to manage your body. So it's just basically
you have to eat grass.
"It was a nightmare. But it worked and it paid off. I feel like I'm taking it one day at a time."
In the meantime she has been enjoying sharing her favourite sites in Rome with her daughter Olimpia who turns two in September.
"It's really fun because I took her to the Colosseum, then I took her to the (Trevi) fountain," she said.
"It was really cool to share my favourite city with her, some of my favourite things to see. Obviously the pasta and the food."
"It's okay," she said of all the tourists.
"I just smile and take pictures. I don't mind so much."
will be another family affair on the courts of the Foro Italico, when
she plays Venus, with the sisters last meeting in 1998, 21 years ago.
"That's crazy," laughed Serena.
"I mean, it was like the semi-finals or the finals. No, the quarter-finals? I vaguely remember that.
"We play each other a lot. It seems like every tournament nowadays we meet early. Yeah, it is what it is. We'll see.
"She has a tough first round," she predicted.
meanwhile, came out on top of a tight contest that went all the way to a
third-set tie-break despite letting the Belgian back in by missing six
match points on her serve.
She missed a further two match points
as Mertens battled to level the set at 6-6, before finally taking the
match in the tie-break and setting up a 31st clash with her sibling.
just as fierce, Venus is just as fierce. We both really want to get
some match play. We'll both do the best that we can," warned Serena, who
leads 18-12, the most recent at last year's US Open.
Venus said she remembered "pretty much zero" about their last meeting in Rome which she won all those years ago.
"I know that's she's going to play well and compete really well, that's a given," added the 7-time Grand Slam singles winner.
Results from the ATP and WTA Italian Open tournaments in Rome on Monday (x denotes seeding):
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) bt Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) 6-2, 6-3
Amanda Anisimova (USA) bt Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 6-3, 6-3
Katerina Siniaková (CZE) bt Qiang Wang (CHN x15) 1-6, 7-5, 6-4
Serena Williams (USA x10) bt Rebecca Peterson (SWE) 6-4, 6-2
Venus Williams (USA) bt Elise Mertens (BEL) 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4)
Johanna Konta (GBR) bt Alison Riske (USA) 6-4, 6-1
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) bt Shuai Zhang (CHN) 6-2, 6-1
Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) bt Saisai Zheng (CHN) 6-3, 6-4
Madison Keys (USA x13) bt Polona Hercog (SLO) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
Sofia Kenin (USA) bt Jasmine Paolini (ITA) 6-1, 6-2
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) bt Tamara Zidanšek (SLO) 7-6 (7/1), 6-4
Viktória Kužmová (SVK) bt Sara Errani (ITA) 6-1, 6-0
Anett Kontaveit (EST x14) bt Mona Barthel (GER) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) bt Lesya Tsurenko (UKR) 6-4, 6-2
Denis Shapovalov (CAN) bt Pablo Carreño-Busta (ESP) 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)
Marco Cecchinato (ITA x16) bt Alex De Minaur (AUS) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Casper Ruud (NOR) bt Daniel Evans (GBR) 7-5, 0-6, 6-3
Albert Ramos (ESP) bt Gael Monfils (FRA x15) 6-3, 6-1
Fabio Fognini (ITA x10) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3, 6-4
Borna Coric (CRO x13) bt Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-4
Cameron Norrie (GBR) bt John Millman (AUS) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) bt Kyle Edmund (GBR) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
Karen Khachanov (RUS x11) bt Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3
Laslo Djere (SRB) bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 6-3, 6-4
Play suspended overnight:
Richard Gasquet (FRA) v Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 1-6, 6-4