One of the most popular articles from my early blogging days was the one entitled "Serena Williams – Indian Wells never again" and it was published in April 2007 when Serena decided not to return to Indian Wells despite the WTA introducing rigorous sanctions and fines to those who skip tournaments they are obliged to play (although later it turned out that the Williamses are more powerful than the WTA which, somehow still vaguely to me, bent the rules for them). Anyways, today's breaking news is that after 13 years Serena Williams has changed her mind and will make a return at Indian Wells 2015. Nothing is being said about Venus, though.
In 2001 at Indian Wells, Venus Williams pulled out of the semifinal with her sister and when Serena stepped on the court for her title match against Kim Clijsters, she was loudly booed through most of the match and that dreadful experience kept her and her sister away from the tournament for almost a decade and a half. The failed all-Williams encounter made many ticket holders angry and the Williams family also reported being racially offended. That is the main plot, but the incident as a whole is still surrounded by a lot of controversy composed of rumors and confusing comments about racism and even match fixing.
CHANGE OF MIND
So many years after persistently refusing to play the event where she won her first pro match and her first big WTA title back in 1999, Serena has finally decided to make a return, feeling a changed atmosphere and circumstances in the tennis of today. Here's one of the quotes from her exclusive statement for TIME:
Thirteen years and a lifetime in tennis later, things feel different. A few months ago, when Russian official Shamil Tarpischev made racist and sexist remarks about Venus and me, the WTA and USTA immediately condemned him. It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too.
Previously, again and again Serena reiterated that she would never come back to Indian Wells, and here's what she's saying about that now:
I have thought about going back to Indian Wells many times over my career. I said a few times that I would never play there again. And believe me, I meant it. I admit it scared me. What if I walked onto the court and the entire crowd booed me? The nightmare would start all over.
And now she's more confident and relaxed than ever:
I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.
Even in my 2007 article I said that the Williamses should practice forgiveness and return to the tournament. I avoid making comments about what someone should have done, as I'm not in their shoes, but from my point of view, the 2001 Indian Wells was an incident that cannot define the whole tournament as hostile or all the people that go there as racists. What's your take, I'd really like to know? (photo: Jimmie48)