The award winning BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells is one of the world’s biggest tournaments after the four majors so it is only fitting, barring any injuries, that every player should be playing the event. However, since 2001 the Williams sisters Serena and Venus have boycotted the event because of what was perceived as racial issues.
The sisters were due to play one another in the semifinal but an injured Venus withdrew before the match. The situation was certainly unpleasant and very unfortunate and they said they would never return. I was there and I remember the situation.
Last year Serena indicated she would play Indian Wells, she declared so during the Australian Open but closer to the time she could not bring herself to make the trip.
Here we are a year later. Once again Serena was asked at the Australian Open if she was going to play. Q. A year ago you did sign up on the Indian Wells list of possible players. Do you think you'd consider doing that again this year? SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. I like my vacation time that I get at Indian Wells.
It has now been revealed that Serena is taking a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open and making her return after 13 years. She is doing it for something called Equal Justice Initiative.
Writing in Time magazine, she said: “There are some who say I should never go back. There are others who say I should’ve returned years ago. I understand both perspectives very well and wrestled with them for a long time.
“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.”
In that same Time article she said that she had thought about going back to Indian Wells many times over the years but Williams said she was scared she would experience a similar reaction and that the nightmares would begin once more.
“It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001, driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever - not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality,” she said. “Emotionally it seemed easier to stay away. There are some who say I should never go back. There are others who say I should’ve returned years ago. I understand both perspectives very well and wrestled with them for a long time. I’m just following my heart on this one.”
Things she says feel different and one of the reasons she cites for that is the stand the WTA and USTA took against the Russian official Shamil Tarpischev when he made questionable remarks about Venus and Serena. She said: “It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too.”
There is no doubt Serena will be welcomed with open arms at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.