July 21, 2008

Serena and the Indian Wells situation

Effective next year, the WTA Tour will institute a policy that designates four tournaments, outside the Grand Slam events, as mandatory for the tour’s top players (or players could do sponsor and media duties /publicity anywhere in the tournament's "publicity circumference," which is gauged at 125 miles). The goal is to stop an irritating tradition of players developing phantom injuries and pulling out of tournaments at the last minute.

For the Williams sisters, an extenuating, nonnegotiable circumstance is a vow they made in 2001 to boycott Indian Wells, Calif. Indian Wells is home to the Pacific Life Open, one of the WTA’s four “must play” tournaments. In 2001, Venus pulled out of a semifinal match against her sister with a leg injury. During the final, Serena was booed on the court (throughout the match), and Venus and her father were heckled and jeered as they watched in the stands. Richard (Williams) said that racial slurs were also directed towards his family. Scott said that he had watched a tape of the match, conducted interviews and held discussions with the sisters and their family.

“Having watched it myself, it was one of the harshest environments I’ve seen a player have to be in,” Scott said. “It was a unique situation and one that obviously runs deep for Serena and for Venus.” They vowed to never again set foot inside Indian Wells again. For seven years, they have not.

Under the new rule, a player who skips a mandatory tournament would receive no rankings points and could face a fine and a suspension for two subsequent tournaments. Had the rule been in force this year, the Williams sisters might not have been able to play at the Sony Ericsson Open, one of their favorites.

and Serena's response.........................

“I’m not going to Indian Wells,” Serena said. “That’s just the bottom line. I honestly don’t think they would want me to go. I wouldn’t have anything positive to say. It would be kind of shooting themselves in the foot. I would be more than happy to go and tell them how I really feel. Some things you have to stand up for. There’s been a lot of people in the past that are my race that have stood up for a lot more than not playing Indian Wells. That’s the least I can do.”

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