No. 1-ranked women's tennis player Serena Williams will play in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells after a 14-year hiatus. She will go up against Monica Niculescu in her opening match on March 13.
Serena Williams is back at Indian Wells.
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According to USA Today's David Leon Moore, winning is only secondary to Williams' agenda at Indian Wells. Her primary reason for being there is "because she has something to say." She last played in this city 14 years ago.
Williams said during a packed press conference some of the reasons she's back include raising awareness for the Equal Justice Initiative charity and recent, racially-charged incidents such as the one in Ferguson, Mo., per Moore.
More importantly, Williams told USA Today she's ready to forgive and move on from the hurt she went through more than a decade ago:
"I'm looking forward to stepping out on center court and letting the whole world know that it doesn't matter what you say, if it's something that wasn't right or something that hurt you and hurt your family, you can just come out and and be strong and say, I'm still going to be here, I'm still going to survive and I'm still going to be the best person that I can be.
"I was taught when I was young to always forgive and always look at the bigger picture. I think it's been a good opportunity. In order to forgive, you have to really let go of everything. I kind of let go a long time ago and I kind of forgave, but I still wasn't at a point that I was ready to come back to Indian Wells.
"I think I was a little nervous as well. I went through something that wasn't the best for me. Trying to get over those nerves of coming back and how I feel and what it's going to be like...when you do forgive and let go, you have to let a lot of those emotions go as well.
"I think a lot of the things that have been happening lately definitely played a part in the whole picture. I thought it was really good timing not just for me but for Americans in general to to step up and say that we as a people, we as Americans, can do better. We can be better. And we are better.
"It's a great opportunity if you're in position where you can stand up and speak and be a role model, then why not do it? I feel like this is a perfect opportunitiy and a perfect session for me to do that."
Williams confessed she was "a little nervous" coming into the tournament. She even had second thoughts, even spending one day in Los Angeles to think things through. But once she arrived in Indian Wells, the nerves dissipated, per Moore.
William C. Rhoden of The New York Times says the root cause of Williams' boycotting Indian Wells was a traumatic experience which occurred in March 2001. Back then, a 19-year-old Williams was pitted in a semifinal match against her sister, Venus. The latter had to pull out of the tournament because of an injury.
Their father, Richard, "was accused of orchestrating the outcome," says Rhoden.
The New York Times report cites Richard Williams' 2014 autobiography. In it, he mentions the crowd present in 2001 booed mercilessly when Serena took the court with he and Venus watching in the stands. According to the book, racial slurs "flew throughout the stadium." He added,"My daughters were treated without an ounce of dignity or respect. They were treated like criminals."
When the Williamses left Indian Wells in 2001, they swore they would never come back. However, Serena Williams revealed in a Feb. 2015 Times Magazine interview she would return for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, per Rhoden.
The media asked Serena Williams to recall that fateful match 14 years ago, but she remained elusive, saying the doesn't "really watch that match." After all these years, she tells Moore her family--Richard and Venus included--- support her decision to return:
"I feel if Venus didn't support me, I wouldn't be here. If she said,'Serena, I don't think this is good. I don't think you should go,' there is no chance I would be here right now. She 100 percent supports me and is very happy that I'm here and even encouraged me to come.
"I was a little nervous. He's (Richard) been through some things when he was growing up. It was really an emotional time when I was talking to him. I said,'I think I'm going to go back, but I'm not going to go back if you don't want me to. The last thing I want to do is do something that's not 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."
Moore notes Williams will kick off her BNP Paribas Open return with a match against Monica Niculescu on Friday, March 13, at 7 p.m. PT.
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