Serena says 'right time' to end Indian Wells boycott

Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:24pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Serena Williams said on Thursday her decision to end a 14-year boycott of the BNP Paribas Open after suffering racist abuse in the 2001 final came down to "timing."

Williams had skipped the showpiece event at the desert resort after winning her second title here by beating Kim Clijsters in a final marred by the behavior of some spectators who booed and heckled the American and her family.

The reaction was in apparent response to Serena's sister Venus having withdrawn from their semi-final that year just minutes before the match.

"The whole point of me coming back was not to necessarily focus on what happened 14 years ago," world number one Williams, 33, told a packed news conference at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"It was more or less to focus on how I felt, if it was the right opportunity for me to come back now and for me to be at this tournament. I just felt like it was time.

"There's not one thing that says I should come back, that I should come back in 2015. I just felt like it was the right time for me to come back here and try to do the best that I could."

Spectators vented their displeasure with the withdrawal of Venus during the 2001 final, booing Serena and jeering her sister and father Richard Williams when the pair arrived to watch the match.

Richard Williams alleged he had heard racist taunts, and Serena said she was "nervous" when speaking to her father about her possible return.   Continued...

Serena Williams speaks to the media during a press conference today at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mar 12, 2015; Indian Wells, CA, USA;  Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports