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Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
A familiar familial sight.

Two decades of the Williams sisters meeting across a tennis net, in photos

Johnny Simon
By Johnny Simon

Deputy Photo Editor

Update: Tonight, at the US Open in Flushing, Queens, marked the 30th time Serena and Venus Willams faced each other on a professional tennis court—their 16th meeting in a major. Despite rolling her ankle in the opening minutes of the match, and having it taped by a trainer, Serena prevailed, winning in two sets: 6-1, 6-2.

Reuters/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Their 30th meeting across a professional net.

“It’s not easy,” Serena said after the match. “She’s my best friend. She means the world to me. Every time she loses, I feel like I do. It’s not very easy, but it’s a tournament. We know there’s more to life than just playing each other and playing tennis.”

Serena and Venus Williams have been two of the most dominant forces in tennis for more than two decades. Since they first faced each other at the 1998 Australian Open, when Venus, at 17, defeated Serena, at 16, the world has watched the sisters grow up on the court.

AP file photo
Of course, Venus (right) and Serena (left) have been playing tennis together their whole lives.

Both women have had astounding careers, and Serena has even been called the greatest athlete of all time. Inevitably, given their respective triumphs, the two superlative players have sometimes had to face each other on professional courts. The women congratulating or consoling one another at the net following a victory has become a common sight in professional tennis—and one freighted with emotion for fans (or anyone with a sibling).

The moment had added resonance today, when the sisters faced each other at the ages of 36 (Serena) and 38 (Venus): Serena took a year away from professional tennis after the birth of her daughter, and made a stunning comeback to the court earlier this summer—then had to withdraw from the French Open with a pectoral muscle injury. Venus, an entrepreneur off the court, has recovered from injuries and illnesses, and was involved in a fatal car crash last year.

“Unfortunately and fortunately we have to play each other,” Serena told the New York Times earlier this week. “We make each other better. We bring out the best when we play each other. It’s what we do. So, I think we’re used to it now.”

Here’s a look back at the Williams sisters’ two decades of meeting across professional nets:

AP Photo/Rick Stevens
At the Australian Open in 1998.
AP Photo/Alan Diaz
At the Lipton Championship in 1999.
AP Photo/Tom Pugh
Venus Williams, left, is congratulated by her defeated sister Serena, at Wimbledon in 1999.
Reuters/Gary Hershorn
Venus embraces Serena after she won the women’s final at the US Open in 2001.
Reuters/Ian Hodgson
At Wimbledon in 2002.
Reuters/Action Images/Rudy Lhomme
At the 2002 US Open.
Reuters/Ian Hodgson
At Wimbledon in 2003.
Reuters/Gary Hershorn
At the 2005 US Open.
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
At Wimbledon in 2008.
Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Serena greets her Venus at the net after defeating her in their quarter-final match at the 2008 US Open.
Reuters/Eddie Keogh
Venus and Serena Williams pose for a photograph before their Ladies’ Singles finals match at Wimbledon in 2009.
Reuters/Eddie Keogh
Serena is congratulated by Venus after their Ladies’ Singles finals match at Wimbledon in 2009.
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Serena holds the trophy after winning the singles final against Venus at the WTA Tennis Championships, in Doha, Qatar in 2009.
AP Photo/Stephen Morton
At the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament in Charleston, South Carolina in 2013.
EPA/Andre Pichette
Venus is congratulated by Serena Williams of the US after her win during their semi-final match at the Rogers Cup women tennis tournament in Montreal, Canada in 2014.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
At the 2015 US Open.
Reuters/Jerry Lai/USA TODAY
At the 2015 US Open.
Reuters/Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
The Williams sisters hug after their third round match in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California in 2018.
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