Serena Williams and her competitive comeback continued at Indian Wells as the 23-time grand slam champion earned a memorable third-round showdown with sister Venus.

It was far from a perfect performance but former world number one Serena managed to outlast Kiki Bertens 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 Saturday.

Williams gave birth to daughter Alexis Olympia in September and Thursday saw the American superstar back in a main draw of a WTA event for the first time since winning the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne.

And the 36-year-old backed that up with a battling display, which lasted almost two hours against the spirited Dutchwoman, despite tallying 34 unforced errors.

Williams will now face older sister Venus, whom she beat in the Australian Open decider at Melbourne Park last year.

The first set could have gone either way as Bertens troubled Williams, though the Dutchman's serve proved to be her downfall.

Williams started with a love hold but the veteran was broken in the third game when she sloppily netted a forehand.

But a high unforced error count from Williams opened the door for Bertens, who consolidated the break to love with a hold of her own – completed with an ace for a 3-1 lead.

Williams, though, as she often does, came roaring back to level things up after three games.

Bertens managed to break again, however, earning the chance to serve for the set at 5-4 but her serving woes continued as Williams responded with a tie-break on the horizon.

And Williams brought up three set points in the tie-break and she converted the third when Bertens sprayed a forehand well wide of the line.

Bertens, however, refused to surrender in the second set as she frustrated the two-time champion.

The pair exchanged breaks in the third and fourth games to leave the score deadlocked at 2-2 before Williams appeared to deliver the knockout blow – breaking for the chance to set for the match at 5-4.

With the crowd applauding and preparing for the seemingly inevitable, Bertens dug deep again, denying Williams after staying alive in the contest.

It was a spirited display from Bertens but she was unable to back it up on serve as Williams reclaimed the break immediately before ending the contest once and for all, much to the joy of the American fans.