Indian Wells, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - World No. 1 Serena Williams announced that she will return to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this year, a tournament she captured twice but hasn't played for 14 years.
Williams made the announcement in an exclusive for Time Magazine on Wednesday, discussing everything from her happy memories from the tournament, her devastating experiences there in 2001 and now, after 14 years, what brought her to the decision to make her long-awaited return.
"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," Williams wrote in her exclusive piece for Time.
"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."
Indian Wells was one of Williams' biggest conquering grounds early on in her career. She won the title in her main draw debut there as a 17-year-old in 1999, including beating Steffi Graf in a riveting final, reached the quarterfinals again the next year, falling to Mary Pierce, and then recaptured the Premier Mandatory-level title in 2001, rallying from a set down to beat Kim Clijsters in the final.
The victory over Clijsters in the '01 final was marred by the behavior of some fans who booed and heckled the American and her family, apparently in response to sister Venus withdrawing injured from their semifinal.
"I said a few times that I would never play there again. And believe me, I meant it," said Serena. "I admit it scared me. What if I walked onto the court and the entire crowd booed me? The nightmare would start all over.
"I'm just following my heart on this one," she adds. "Indian Wells was a pivotal moment of my story, and I am a part of the tournament's story as well.
"Together we have a chance to write a different ending."
Indian Wells will stage its lucrative tennis event next month.