Serena Williams has decided not to play the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells again after very briefly flirting with the idea, and Venus Williams says she has not thought about it recently, even though the issue has been very much in the news.
Williams fell to Petra Kvitova in long three-setter in Doha on Tuesday, and then was asked whether she would continue a boycott of Indian Wells, which she and her sister have not played since 2001 as they felt like they were taunted with racial jeers from the spectators.
“I really think she’s (Serena) given more thought to it. I haven’t given any thought at all to anything,: Venus said in Doha. “Well, if Serena thinks about it, we like to copy each other, but I haven’t given any thought at this point.”
Indian Wells is held at a site less than a two hours’ drive from where the Williams grew up in Compton, California. Venus recently visited a retail store nearby to promote her clothing line.
But that does not mean she is comfortable enough to play the event. Serena is not either.
“If anyone could be in my shoes, to be 19 years old and have a whole crowd jeer – I can’t explain that feeling,” Serena once said. “I’ve never felt like that before in my career, and I hope never to feel like that again. I enjoy going places where people enjoy seeing me play. That was one place where apparently a lot of people didn’t want to see me play.”
In 2001, Venus pulled out of her semi-final against Serena just moments before they were scheduled to play with a knee injury and didn’t go on court to apologize to fans. A day before that, fellow player Elena Dementieva had publicly questioned whether the Serena and Venus’ match would be legitimate at all, saying their father would decide the outcome
“Richard is going to decide who wins tomorrow,” Dementieva said at the time.
With some media outlets questioning the legitimacy of Venus’ injury, angry fans lit into the Williams family on the day of the women’s final when Serena faced Kim Clijsters. First they booed Serena when she walked on court, then they booed Richard and Venus Williams as they walked down the stair to the friends box. The crowd continued to intensely hoot and holler throughout Serena’s three-set win and during some of the awards ceremony.
After the match, Serena called the of accusations of potential match-fixing “scandalous lies,”
Stunned and irate, the Williams’s vowed never to return
“I don’t feel I’m wanted there and most of all I don’t want to be there,” Venus said a few year after that. “I don’t like the way I was treated.”
Serena was angered when it was suggested to her once that she might have just been confronted with one bad crowd on one bad day.
“Are you kidding me?” she asked. “Did you hear how bad they were? It was like a bunch of 80-year-olds screaming at me for two hours. Uh-uh. It was crazy. It was terrible. Obviously, they don’t want me there and don’t care about me there. I don’t plan to go back. I don’t see how that could ever happen.”
Indian Wells tournament chairman Ray Moore and tournament director Steve Simon have consistently said that the Williams’s have an open invitation to return to the event. But Venus was stung at the time that no one stood up for them.
“During the awards ceremony someone should have been brave enough to say something,” she said. “Nobody did. They acted like it was all okay. I remember Serena saying, ‘I want to say thank you to the people who support me and those who didn’t, I love you anyway.’ No one else said anything or acknowledged [what happened]. That’s not right. There was no support at all. If someone would’ve spoken up and said it’s not right, and that we were important enough that they wanted us there, maybe I would’ve gone back. Now it would take an act of God.”
The 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells does have a standout women’s field though, led by Aussie Open champ Li Na, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, and basically every top player minus the sisters.