Former world No. 1 Venus Williams joins the lineup at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells for the first time since 2001.
“We are thrilled that Venus Williams, one of the greatest women’s players in the history of the game, is returning to play in the BNP Paribas Open,” exclaimed Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore. “Our fans embraced Serena last year, and we expect nothing less for Venus when she returns to compete at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.”
Venus and her sister Serena boycotted the tournament, which is often called the fifth Grand Slam, in 2001 after the tournament director did not apologize for the treatment Serena endured playing there.
In 2001, Serena’s sister Venus defaulted to her due to tendinitis. She claims she told the tournament hours in advance, but the officials did not call the match until a few minutes before it was scheduled to start. People booed and jeered, which carried over to the finals where Serena played against Kim Clijsters. Officials did not tell the audience to quiet down when they cheered every time Serena committed a mistake. Her father Richard Williams claimed spectators spewed racist comments towards him.
Indian Wells became a mandatory stop in 2009, but the sisters refused to play.
Last year, Serena penned an op-ed in Time that announced her return to the event. She noticed a change within the WTA and USTA (United States Tennis Association):
This haunted me for a long time. It haunted Venus and our family as well. But most of all, it angered and saddened my father. He dedicated his whole life to prepping us for this incredible journey, and there he had to sit and watch his daughter being taunted, sparking cold memories of his experiences growing up in the South.
Thirteen years and a lifetime in tennis later, things feel different. A few months ago, when Russian official Shamil Tarpischev made racist and sexist remarks about Venus and me, the WTA and USTA immediately condemned him. It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too.
“The fans will be thrilled to see Venus compete again in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open,” said WTA CEO and former Indian Wells Tournament Director and COO, Steve Simon. “I’m delighted to see Venus take her place in this year’s stellar line up of WTA and ATP players. This event keeps going from strength to strength and remains a clear fan and player favorite. I’m confident Venus will enjoy playing there again as much as we will enjoy seeing her on court.”
Venus enjoyed a successful 2015, landing back in the top ten and playing far into Grand Slams.
However, Johanna Konta defeated Venus in the first round at the Australian Open. The match lasted only 79 minutes.