Roger Federer is happy Serena Williams will be returning to Indian Wells for the first time since 2001, after the American world No1 decided to end her boycott of the tournament.
Williams hadn’t set foot at Indian Wells since she was booed during the 2001 final, where her father Richard was also the subject of racial slurs, as spectators accused him of deciding the previous semi-final match between his daughters Serena and Venus, who reportedly withdrew with an injury minutes before it was due to start (Venus later said she had told organisers much earlier but it was only announced late).
Serena made a surprise decision recently, announcing she would be returning to the tournament in the California desert. Her sister Venus will not be joining her however.
Federer, who begins his title defence in Dubai on Monday against Mikhail Youzhny, was asked about his thoughts on Serena’s choice to go back. He said: “I expected it to happen much earlier to be honest, especially as soon as Larry Ellison came in.
"At some stage I thought they would have talked about it and worked it out in some shape or form and just say like ‘what happened before, let’s move on’.
“I understand it was a big deal for her but it’s nice seeing that she’s moving on. It’s such a nice tournament and… would she have played the last 14 years she probably would have won at least five, 10 times the event. Maybe cost her many weeks at world No1.
“If you think about it, if you would have added those 500 to 1000 points throughout, so it was a big sacrifice from her side. And I think it’s nice to see her back in Indian Wells I must say.”
Serena had announced her decision in an exclusive column published on Time.com earlier this month.
“It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001, driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever — not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality,” Serena wrote.
“I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.”