Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America)
Looking cool, calm and collected, not to mention beautiful, Serena Jameka Williams sat down before a packed to the rafters press room at Indian Wells and spoke eloquently and forcefull about her reasons for returning to the venue where racist fans did their best to make a then teenaged Serena, her older sister Venus Williams and their father and coach Richard Williams feel unwelcome in the upscale retirement community. They left, after Serena won the title, vowing never to return. Fourteen years later Serena has decided that it's time to put the past behind her, to make a fresh start and resume playing tennis at one of the top tournaments on the Main Tour.
The decision has been met by incredulity, dare I say stupidity, and dog whistle racism by media and fans alike. Let's not forget that tennis media, as so eloquently outlined in an article by Andrew Jerrell Jones in his article for Britain's The Guardian newspaper, is fighting to hold onto it's members only, read white only, exclusiveness.
But let's focus on the positive. Serena still says that it was seeing "Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom,” and what he was willing to forgive in order to move on with his life that made her reconsider her stance on Indian Wells. It has nothing to do with a new found "maturity" - a back handed way of implying that the Williams family reacted in a childlike manner and threw a fourteen year tantrum before "growing up" but a careful weighing of her life, where she was despite that incident, and not only where but who she is. Some want to ignore the fact that she's representing a charity at this event, the Equal Justice Initiative, a criminal justice group in Montgomery, Alabama so as to focus on the issue of mass incarceration of people of color.
I hope that the following words spoken by Serena during her press conference will put all the theories and drama behind.
Williams made it very clear that she would not be back at Indian Wells, the site of her first big tournament victory in 1999, if she didn't have the blessing of her family. Williams made it perfectly clear that while her older sister Venus is not in the field, she has given her full support.
“If she didn’t support me, I wouldn’t be here,” Williams said Thursday during her news conference. “If she said, ‘Serena, I don’t think this is good, I don’t think you should go,’ there’s no chance I would be here right now. She 100 percent supports me and is happy that I’m here, and even encouraged me to come.”
Williams said for a long time, she was set on never returning to the BNP Paribas Open. But once she began to entertain the idea, she made sure she spoke with her family members. One of the more important blessings Williams wanted to get was from her father, Richard.
“With my dad, I was nervous about him as well. I wrote about that,” Williams said. “He had been through some things when he was growing up. When I was done telling him, it was a really emotional time for me. I said, ‘I think I should go back, but I’m not going back if you don’t want me to. The last thing I want to do is to do something that isn’t right for all of us.’”
“He said it would be a big mistake if I didn’t go back. I thought that was really admirable.”
So now let's talk about her tennis.
The above picture, posted by Patrick Mouratoglou on his Facebook page, is, to put it mildly, cause for concern. The heavy taping is also visible in pictures taken in Indian Wells (the above picture was taken in Los Angeles. I hope that the taping is a precautionary measure even though it's so heavy.
Serena will play her first match Friday evening.
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