(March 12, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Before the big show on Friday the 13th, when she’ll be making her return to Indian Wells, there was one more hurdle for Serena Williams to negotiate as she held her pre-tournament news conference ahead of her opening round against Monica Niculescu.
Her focus was not about the events of 2001 anymore, but about how she felt that it was the right moment for her to come back to the event.
She said: “It was just a really good opportunity for me. It was more or less timing. I just felt like everything was a right time for me to just come back and try to do the best that I could here again.”
She credited Nelson Mandela’s biography, The Long Walk to Freedom, with having helped her make peace with herself in terms of learning to forgive and move on.
“So I read the book [and] that hit me hard, because I met Mr. Mandela a couple of times, and we had some interesting conversations.”
Although Serena is back, Venus (whose withdrawal from the semi-final was the catalyst for the whole issue) is not, and has no plans to return, although has been very supportive of her younger sibling.
Williams said: “I feel if she 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’ then there is no chance I would be here right now.
“She 100% supports me and is very happy that I’m here and even encouraged me to come.”
Interestingly Williams admitted she was quite nervous when she told her parents, choosing to spend a lot of time with father Richard Williams before coming to Indian Wells.
She explained: “I told my mom, and I was a little nervous about what she would say. She just listened to my whole story. This was in the very beginning long before anyone else knew.
“She said ‘I’ll be there for you. Whatever you need I’m going to be there to support you.”
Williams continued: “I was a little shocked, I don’t know why because she’s always been really supportive.”
The nerves did not dissipate for the 19-time Grand Slam champion when she told her father. In her article for Time magazine she mentioned some of the experiences he went through as a young man.
Williams continued: “When I was done telling him – it was a really emotional time for me when I was talking to him. I was like ‘I think I should go back, but I’m not going to go back if you don’t want me to.”
As colourful as she might be in some of her more vehement court encounters, as dominant as she is currently at the head of the women’s game, suffice to say it should fall to Williams to have the last word on her return.
“If you are in a position where you can stand up and speak and be a role model, then why not do it. I feel this is a perfect opportunity and a perfect session for me to do that.”
Ros Satar is a British sports journalist.