“I wish they would come back. I wish they would forgive and just move on, but I was there that day, and it was terrible. So I understand why they don’t, but I wish.” – Billie Jean King
With a little over a month to go before one of the “mini-Majors” begins, the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the organizers have released a promotional video for the tournament. The minute long clip features the women’s champion Maria Sharapova near the end.
But the truth is, very few people are talking about Masha or defending men’s champion Rafael Nadal. The buzz in the tennis world concerns whether Serena Williams will end her boycott of Indian Wells and participate this year. She submitted her name for the entry list, leaving open the real possibility that she could return to the desert for the first time since she, her father and her sister Venus Williams were booed, heckled and verbally assaulted with racist language by the crowd during Serena’s final against a then-17 year old Kim Clijsters. The crowd was upset over Venus pulling out of a much anticipated semifinal with her sister with an injury. Accusations of Richard Williams orchestrating the entire scenario were thrown around with absolutely no evidence (and, in my opinion, no logic). Since that ugly incident, the Williams Sisters have skipped Indian Wells every year.
It’s being reported that Serena was inspired to forgive by watching the film, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. If she plays, and I do hope she does play, I wish for nothing but a positive reception from the crowd. Serena’s place in the tennis world has grown immensely from that day. People forget that Indian Wells wasn’t the only place that racist heckling is said to have occurred during a Williams sister match. You don’t hear that nowadays, but earlier in their careers not everybody was welcoming of Venus and Serena. Today, they are venerated American tennis icons. If Serena plays Indian Wells, she should be treated as such. If there are still those who wish to hold their applause, so be it…as long as they hold their taunts and venom as well.