INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - Serena Williams’ decision to end a 14-year boycott of the BNP Paribas Open has been warmly welcomed by her peers with good friend and rival Caroline Wozniacki saying it was “great for tennis”.
Williams had skipped the showpiece event at the desert resort of Indian Wells after winning her second title there in 2001, beating Kim Clijsters in a final marred by the racist abuse of some fans who booed and heckled the American and her family.
The crowd reaction was in apparent response to her sister Venus having withdrawn from their semi-final that year just minutes before the match, citing injury.
“It’s great for tennis, it’s great for her,” Danish world number five Wozniacki told reporters at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Wednesday. “It’s great for a tournament like this to have the best player in the world playing.
“It’s a big step for her and I’m sure she is going to handle it great. I am happy to see her back here.”
Eighth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who struggled with a knee injury as she was crushed 6-2 6-1 by Italy’s Flavia Pennetta in last year’s BNP Paribas final, agreed.
“It was her decision to come back and we are all happy about that,” said Radwanska. “It’s always another challenge for us playing her.
“There are so many other top players but of course when she is in the draw it’s going to be even more tough.”
In an interview with TIME magazine last month, Williams said she had discovered the “true meaning of forgiveness” and would end her lengthy boycott of Indian Wells by bidding for a third title at the venue.
“I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove,” the 33-year-old Williams, a 19-times grand slam singles champion, wrote. “I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game.
“It is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.”
Wozniacki, who described Serena as one of her closest friends, was not at all surprised by the American’s U-turn.
“That’s who she is,” said Wozniacki. “She is a forgiving person.
“She has her principles and she stands by what she believes in. It’s great that she is back.”
Editing by Steve Keating.