Serena Williams is still haunted by her experience at Indian Wells in 2001 and the mental anguish she endured when she returned to the event in California in 2015 after a lengthy boycott.
“Even when I went back 14 years later, it was very traumatizing,” Williams said in a… interview with Will Smith for “Red Table Talk” released on Wednesday. “Talk about post-traumatic stress and mental anxiety. I remember sitting in the bathroom thinking, ‘Wait, I’m not going back. I just don’t think I should do this. What if they start screaming again?’ It was really hard for me.”
In 2001, Russian Elena Dementieva accused Richard Williams of rigging matches between his daughters Serena, then 19, and Venus Williams. The commentary gained even more traction after Venus withdrew from her semi-final match against Serena with a knee injury just before it was due to start.
When Richard and Venus took their seats in the stands to support Serena in the final against Kim Clijsters, the crowd cheered loudly. Spectators continued to express fury at Serena throughout the match.
Serena eventually defeated Clijsters in three sets for her second Indian Wells title, but the whoops continued well past the end of the match and grew louder as Serena hugged Venus and Richard.
Richard said he was the target of several racist comments during the match.
“It was so hard,” Serena told Smith. “I’ll never forget to drive back, and [sister] Yetunde was there, and I remember just getting in the car and crying. I was at the gas station, there was no party and I cried and cried and cried.”
Serena has been vocal in the past about the toll the incident has taken on her, including writing a first-person column for Time.com in 2015 prior to her return to Indian Wells after a 14-year absence.
However, her interview posted on Wednesday was arguably her most detailed account of what it was like going back to the event.
Smith will play Richard Williams in the upcoming biopic ‘King Richard’. Serena and Venus are executive producers on the project and both attended the sit-down interview with Smith.
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