Officials with the BNP Paribas Open have announced that Serena Williams is on the entrance list for this year's tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden after boycotting the tournament for 12 years. It's still too early to know if she will in fact play, according to Tournament Director Steve Simon, but officials are excited nonetheless.
The annual tennis tournament, held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, takes place from March 3-16. It is the larges ATP World Tour and WTA combined two-week event in the world, according to the tournament's website.
The boycott came after the crowd's hostile response to Venus Williams, who showed up to watch the final between her sister and Kim Clijsters, after pulling out of her scheduled semifinal against Serena Williams just two days earlier, according to Sports Illustrated.
Sports Illustrated wrote that Venus withdrew from her Indian Wells semifinal against Serena just four minutes before it began, prompting anger among the patrons who had come to witness the sisters -- arguably the two best players in the world at that time -- facing each other.
The response from the crowd was one of the ugliest scenes in the sport's history, according to Bruce Jenkins' article in Sports Illustrated. You didn't have to be in the stands (and I was not) to be appalled and disgusted by the crowd's hostile response to Venus, Jenkins wrote.
Venus dropped out of the match because the sisters were playing in a climate of suspicion, fans and fellow players wondering if their matches against each other -- meticulously avoided whenever possible at that time -- were "fixed" by their father, Richard. Elena Dementieva essentially made that claim after losing her Indian Wells quarterfinal to Venus, and a National Enquirer piece had accused the sisters of fixing the result of their 2000 Wimbledon semifinal.
Despite their father Richard's fierce assertions, there is considerable evidence that the booing centered on Venus' controversial withdrawal, and was not based in racism.
Serena Williams said she was inspired by Nelson Mandela and that's why she chose to come back to the tournament in 2014, according to an article on Reuters.com.
In addition, the BNP Paribas Open's website has released all entries for this year's tournament.
On the men's side, the entry list includes World No. 1, 13-time Grand Slam Champion and defending BNP Paribas Open Champion Rafael Nadal (2007, 2009, 2013), six-time Grand Slam Champion and World No. 2 Novak Djokovic (2008, 2011), World No. 4 and defending Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray, and four-time BNP Paribas Open Champion, 17-time Grand Slam Champion and World No. 6 Roger Federer (2004-2006, 2012). In addition, all the remaining top 10 ranked players are entered, along with two-time Grand Slam and BNP Paribas Open Champion Lleyton Hewitt (2003, 2004).
On the women's side, the entry list includes World No. 1, 17-time Grand Slam Champion, and two-time BNP Paribas Open Champion Serena Williams (1999, 2001), two-time Grand Slam Champion and World No. 2 Victoria Azarenka (2012), and defending BNP Paribas Open Champion, four-time Grand Slam Champion, and World No. 3 Maria Sharapova (2006, 2013). Other former BNP Paribas Open champions on the list include World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic (2010), World No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki (2011), Ana Ivanovic (2008) and Daniela Hantuchova (2002, 2007). In addition, all the remaining top 10 ranked players are entered as well.
"We are very excited to showcase our new site expansion, including the new Stadium 2, to our fans, sponsors, players and media with the McEnroe Challenge for Charity presented by Esurance," said Tournament Director Steve Simon. "While it is too soon to know whether she will play or not, we are pleased to see Serena's name on the entry list. Based on her comments at the Australian Open we know playing in the tournament is something she is thinking about."
The remaining spots in the draws will be filled with winners of the Qualifying tournament (March 3-5) and Wildcards, which will be announced in the coming weeks, according to BNP officials.