Why Did Serena Williams Return To Indian Wells?
by Tom Gainey | March 12th, 2015, 11:46 am

So why has Serena Williams decided to return to Indian Wells this year? ESPNW’s Howard Bryant offers his answer in a new story today.

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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16 Comments for Why Did Serena Williams Return To Indian Wells?

SG1 Says:

Why Did Serena Williams Return To Indian Wells?

Is this like a “Why did the chicken cross the road question?”

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Very interesting, and good questions. It certainly sounds like Ellison didn’t go very far out of his way to reach out.
On the other hand, Serena being offered “whatever it takes” and all she asks for is to make the announcement herself. Extremely admirable.
What an amazing character Serena is: so many moments of her, or characteristics, I personally dislike, yet so much to admire as well.
She may be the both the greatest women’s player ever and its biggest, fullest personality.

brando Says:

Well what else was Ellison going to do? Let his tournament be known as the famous exception on the calendar of arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time because she felt the crowd at his event were racist towards her? Sounds like a good reputation to maintain no folks? He did the right thing: I’ll do whatever it takes (money ain’t a problem for him no?) As long you turn. A win win move: end of a damaging tag against his event, and more $ for his event since a star turned up.

TennisVagabond.com Says:

Brando, I agree, which is why its weird that he didn’t reach out personally, as he has done to Rafa and Roger who never were skipping the event anyway.

Ben Pronin Says:

Everyone knows Ellison has other things to do than to reach out to every player who doesn’t want to play his event, right? I’m not saying he shouldn’t try to smooth things over with Serena and hopefully Venus, and I know he loves tennis and all. But he’s also got companies to run. What I’m saying is, he’s a busy guy. He made a nice gesture. Can’t please everyone.

Eric Says:

TV, the article doesn’t say that all Serena wanted was to make the announcement herself. She is no doubt making lots of $$$$ too.

I find it bizarre that no one seems to care about getting Venus to come back too.

brando Says:

“he’s a busy guy”: he sure is, hooking up with one woman after another, marrying them and divorcing them not too soon after. Doesn’t take long to reach break point in the game of marriage for our larry no? Lol, I am surprised he found time for “I’m beautiful on the inside” Serena.

chris ford1 Says:

Vagabond – Ellison asking her “what would it take” is worlds different than your read of it: “On the other hand, Serena being offered “whatever it takes” and all she asks for is to make the announcement herself.”

Go back to Negotiation 101. Huge chasm between a negotiating opening bid by Ellison suggesting good terms – and taking that to mean a complete black check offer of whatever Williams wanted..

As for the theory that the owners had no choice but to kow tow to Richard Williams race card play because Venus’s injury was a little too fake for even the pro-Williams US media to swallow at the time…..the Tournament just got bigger and better and nicer after the Williams boycott. Except for early woman’s matches, the place it packed. No one black yellow Muslim NA gay hispanic handicapped white or whatever joined Richard Williams announced boycott or believes much in the veracity of his story.
Like the US boycott of Cuba..sounded like a good push and intimidate tactic…but it didn’t work and pride barred a retreat.

chris ford1 Says:

Eric – “I find it bizarre that no one seems to care about getting Venus to come back to.”

Probably inquiries were made and Venus or her agent responded that she had other plans and her schedule wouldn’t change.
And the IW people responded, “OK, just thought we’d ask. Get back to us if you want to consider playing like Serena, for next year..if Venus is still active WTA then…Bye!”

Eric Says:

Oh joy, another racist on t-x.

Ben Pronin Says:

Attacking someone’s personal life, classic.

Hippy Chick Says:

Tennis Vagabond big congrats on your novel,i would love to read it,i read alot of books in my spare time,i read your bio and i was interested to see your interested in shamanism,been a Hippy Chick me too,i love that Native American style way of life,myself and a group of friends get together once a month with our Soiux drums to raise positive energy,and meditate etc….

Hippy Chick Says:

^And ive just read an extract from it on Amazon,really thought provoking,and a real interesting page turner^….

Margot Says:


A really interesting article about Serena. One reason she’s agreed to participate is she’s highlighting “mass incarceration.”
Wow! Go Serena!

Hippy Chick Says:

TV aka Bacon O Rourke aka David Saches your welcome,and your very handsome too lol ;)….

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