More than two decades must have gone by since the sisters last met on the red clay of Rome. Serena Williams is set to take on Venus in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday.
Both sisters advanced in different styles on Monday.
Four-time Rome winner Serena, 37, returned after two months out injured easing through 6-4, 6-2 against Swedish qualifier Rebecca Petersen.
But 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).
Serena 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 knee injury.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner — now ranked 11th — also withdrew from Indian Wells in March complaining of illness.
Watched 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.
Despite her lack of practice, tenth-seeded Williams was never threatened by Peterson, despite 22 unforced errors by the American in the first set.
Venus 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.
“We’re 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.