It’s been 14 years since tennis’ no. 1 Serena Williams has played the Indian Wells tournament in tennis. She’d been boycotting it since 2001, when she was booed relentlessly during a winning match against Kim Clijsters. Williams, her sister Venus and father Richard Williams claimed racist slurs were hurled at them during the tournament.
But Williams decided to let the past stay in the past and returned to Indian Wells on Friday, winning the tournament over the weekend. A tearful Williams was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers as she went on to eventually defeat No. 68 Monica Niculescu in the final match.
From USA Today’s sports blog FTW:
The world No. 1 last played the so-called fifth slam as a teenager in 2001, when she defeated Kim Clijsters in the final amidst a hostile, ugly atmosphere during which racial epithets were allegedly used toward Richard and Venus Williams. The sight of an American crowd roundly booing an American star playing an up-and-coming Belgian was one of the oddest, nastiest scenes in recent tennis memory. It all stemmed from a controversy that began two days earlier, when Venus withdrew from a semifinal against her sister minutes before they were set to take the court, renewing accusations that Richard was “fixing” the sisters’ matches.
In the ensuing years, Serena was both encouraged and discouraged to return to Indian Wells, but she finally decided to return in 2015, revealing her decision in an online essay for Time.
Read more about Serena’s return to Indian Wells HERE.