Serena Williams is one of the most decorated and successful athletes in the world. The American has successfully dominated women’s tennis for almost two decades in her illustrious professional career.
However, the 23-time singles Grand Slam champion has suffered from a lot of disrespect on her way to the crown. The most infamous incident of opprobrium for Williams took place in 2001 at Indian Wells. Serena and Venus Williams’ father as well as former coach, Richard Williams accused numerous spectators at the Tennis Garden of directing racist slurs and taunts at him and his daughters.
Serena Williams winning Indian Wells in 2001.
She was boo’d and her family were called racial slurs during this match. Through it all, she kept her head up and stood proud.
“The reception wasn’t so good, but if you’re a champion you should be able to get through it.” pic.twitter.com/3CJyWB9QWg
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) March 8, 2023
“It’s the worst act of prejudice I’ve seen since they killed Martin Luther King,” Richard Williams said after what happened at the Indian Wells following her elder daughter’s withdrawal.
Years later, after what happened in 2001, Williams expressed how she felt when she was getting booed at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden by the crowd. He stated that it was painful for her, and she also felt alone and afraid in the crowded playing venue.
Too true. The way the Williams sisters were treated at Indian Wells in 2001 was SHAMEFUL; USTA didn’t do squat to support them, resulting in them boycotting the event for 13 YEARS.
White players & audiences couldn’t handle the sight of two Black women dominating “their” game. pic.twitter.com/6csYDcrJaN
— #PassTheERA, dammit! (@TheMominatrixx) September 13, 2020
“The false allegations that our matches were fixed hurt, cut, and ripped into us deeply. The undercurrent of racism was painful, confusing, and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone, and afraid.” Williams said.
Why did fans hate Serena Williams in her early Tennis career?
From 1999 to 2001, Serena Williams was a prodigy who had a really bright future. However, she had to go through a lot of racism and disrespect because she was not a native white woman playing tennis.
Furthermore, the hate towards her got stronger at the Indian Wells Masters when she was accused of match-fixing by spectators. At the first tournament of the Sunshine Double, Venus Williams withdrew in the semifinal due to a knee injury against her sister. People said that Richard Williams was fixing the match by manipulating his daughters.
Furthermore, the tournament director also refused to offer an apology to them for the way they were treated. Also, the jeers and jibes continued throughout the match in the final when the American squared off against Kim Clijsters.
After everything that happened, the Williams decided to boycott Indian Wells and they spent 14 years away from the tournament. Consequently, Serena Williams finally made her much-awaited return to the event in 2015.