Serena Williams’s return to the WTA Tour came to an abrupt end on Monday as she crashed out of Indian Wells with a 6-3 6-4 loss to her sister Venus.
Venus closed out the 29th career meeting between the two on her second match point as Serena sailed a forehand long to end the third- round showdown.
It was the first meeting between the sisters since they clashed in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, which Serena won before taking a 15-month break due to her pregnancy.
Serena said she was still easing her way back into match fitness.
“It wasn’t very easy, obviously,” she said. “It was good to play and try to get in the rhythm and swing again.”
The 10th-seeded Venus moves on to the round of 16, where she will face Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated 12th-seeded Julia Georges 6-3 6-3.
It is rare for the Williams sisters to play this early in a tournament and the earliest they have faced each other since their first encounter at the Australian Open in 1998.
They arrived outside the stadium together on a golf cart, then walked through the tunnel with Serena entering the court first, as many in the crowd stood and cheered. Venus blasted six aces but had eight double faults in the one hour 26 minute main stadium match in front of a crowd of about 13 000.
Serena is still shaking off the rust after the long layoff as she hit four aces but had her serve broken four times.
“I just have a long way to go,” Serena said.
Despite the loss she still leads their career series 17-12.
Elsewhere, Australian Open champ Caroline Wozniacki benefited from a challenge call in the final game en route to defeating Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 2-6 6-3.
Wozniacki, 27, claimed her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year, becoming the first Danish woman to win a major.
The world No 2 moves on to the fourth round, where she will face 20th seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina, who surprised reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens 6-4 6-3.
Meanwhile, world No 1 Roger Federer needed less than an hour to dispatch Filip Krajinovic at the BNP Paribas Open in California on Monday, mixing overpowering serves and pinpoint groundstrokes to advance to the fourth round of the tournament. Playing for a third consecutive day due to weather delays in Indian Wells, the 36-year-old Swiss showed no sign of wear en route to a 6-2 6-1 thrashing of the Serbian in their first-ever meeting.
Federer was his dominant self on Monday, winning 89% of his first service points while cracking six aces to just one double fault.
Krajinovic had no answer for Federer’s serve or relentless return game and ended up winning just 31 of the match’s 93 points.
With rivals Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray electing not to enter the tournament, and Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori both out of the running, the path appears clear for the Swiss to win a record sixth Indian Wells title.
Next up for Federer is a meeting today with France’s Jeremy Chardy, who upset his countryman Adrian Mannarino earlier on Monday.
In other matches, fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem had to retire with an ankle injury while trailing Pablo Cuevas 6-3 4-6 2-4.
Seventh seed Kevin Anderson took down Nicolas Kicker 7-6(1) 7-6(3) and South Korea’s Chung Hyeon beat Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4.