Her power to inspire now seems as inbuilt as her backhand, as she showed even on her brief time away, when she used her nightmarish experience of childbirth to campaign for greater awareness of the fact that black women in the United States are three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes and that women in many nations lack access to proper maternity care. Serena has clawed her way into competitive form following a 14-month layoff after giving birth to her daughter Alexis Ohanian Jr.
Serena, who is returning to the sport after taking more than a year away to have a baby, was ragged at times but used her power to wear down the Dutch 29th seed in Indian Wells, California.
Williams, though, as she often does, came roaring back to level things up after three games.
The match on Monday will be the first time the two sisters will clash on court since the final of the Australian Open past year, which Serena won, though she was already pregnant.
"I don't think I have a favorite match (against Venus)", Serena Williams said. "I was (thinking) I've just got to keep going and do the best I can". I'm still making errors that I don't normally make.
"I really abhor every time we play, but I do enjoy the battle when I'm out there".
"Obviously I wish it was anybody else in the draw, literally anybody, but that's okay".
"I'm playing with nothing to lose and only to gain. Too black for my tennis whites", Williams says. "It's just afterwards I don't like it as much".
On International Women's Day, Serena Williams won against Zarina Diyas in her first singles match on the WTA tour since she nabbed victory at the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017.
This will be the 29th meeting between the two siblings.
Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki also advanced, courtesy of a 6-4 6-1 victory over Spain's Lara Arruabarrena.
This is the earliest they will face each other since that Melbourne meeting 20 years ago.
Serena, at 36-years-old, is hoping to become the first woman to win three Indian Wells titles.
But when Richard Williams and Venus Williams arrived at the stadium two days later to watch Serena Williams play the 2001 final against Kim Clijsters, they were met with a chorus of boos from the crowd of almost 16,000 as the father and his daughter walked down the stairs to their courtside seats.