The most impressive thing Serena Williams accomplished Friday March 13, 2015 at Indian Wells had nothing to do with tennis. As she walked onto Stadium one, 14 years after she last played in the BNP Paribas Open, she felt the emotions of time and space.
Emotions Run High As Serena Williams Returns to Indian Wells
The standing ovation for the number one tennis player in the world lasted more than two minutes and Williams heard and felt the support loud and clear. Her eyes filled with tears in a touching display of forgiveness and redemption. It was here that at 19 years old, Williams was booed following the forfeit of older sister Venus from the all Williams semifinals and rumors surfaced accusing their father, Richard Williams of “fixing” matches. The entire Williams family boycotted the event after Serena Williams won in 2001, until now.
I was sitting with Mike and Tanya Heathman who were also in the stadium that fateful day. For them this was a moment of pride. To witness the crowd respond to Williams in such a way; honoring her gifts as an athlete and her personal growth as she moves forward to heal old wounds.
Although the battle on center court on a beautiful evening under the desert sky would not be easy. Monica Niculescu presented plenty of her own obstacles for the emotionally charged Williams who committed 48 unforced errors on her way to a 7-5, 7-5 win. The crowd continually urged the past champion on professing their love and welcoming her back as she dealt with her nerves and Niculescu’s effective topspin returns.
“It was overwhelming walking out here and everyone cheering,” said Williams. “I’m glad I was able to do this. It definitely feels like one of the biggest and one of the proudest moments of my career.”
A career that at 33 years old includes 34 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. But this win in the second round at Indian Wells signifies something special for the “Queen of the Court.”
“I feel like I’ve already won this tournament. I don’t feel like I have to actually hold the trophy at the end of this,” said Williams. “I feel like I’m already holding up a trophy. I have never felt that way before. Just being here is a huge win. Not only for me, but for so many people. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
This is where sports allows us to perhaps rewrite history. While Williams didn’t jump up and down after the tough fought match which lasted two hours, She genuinely looked happy to be here, playing and winning in friendly territory once again.