Serena’s return, according to Bryant, was formalized in December when Serena, her agent Jill Smoller, tournament head Ray Moore and owner Larry Ellison, who had never before spoken to Serena, talked about an agreement.
The following month, Williams, Smoller, Moore and Ellison spoke by conference call and came away with a verbal agreement. According to sources, Ellison asked Williams what it would take to get her to return to the tournament. Ellison’s enthusiasm for tennis was well known. Fourteen-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, for example, stays in a house on Ellison’s property during the tournament. It was an example of how the Indian Wells tennis culture had changed with new ownership. Nearing the end of the call, Williams agreed to play, with a caveat: She would be the one to make the announcement after the Australian Open.
According to the story, Serena became more open to the idea of playing Indian Wells once owner changed in 2012 from the old regime of IMG, which was in charge of the event during the infamous 2001 incident.
However, as Bryant also points, out:
“If Larry Ellison really wanted her back, and would do whatever it took, why didn’t he initiate the call?” that source asked. “Why didn’t he pick up the phone and reach out to her? If something like this had happened with Roger, they would have definitely handled it.”
The story also re-iterated that Venus has yet to be contacted by the event or by Ellison. Her boycott will continue.
Regardless of how we arrived at the agreement, Serena makes her long-awaited return Friday evening at 7pm against Monica Niculescu.
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