Wertheim on Sisters/Indian Wells
Will we see a Williams sisters-Indian Wells detente?
Posted: Friday March 14, 2003 3:04 PM
By Jon , Sports Illustrated
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- There was a minor earthquake here the other day and the computer system went nuts. Somehow the following e-mail exchange landed in my inbox.
To: Williams Sisters
From: Charlie Pasarell
Sent: 3/13/03 1:43 p.m.
Hey Venus and Serena:
I was going to Instant Message you guys but you’re not online. Hope this finds you well. Listen, I’ll cut to the chase: I’m writing to extend an olive branch and officially invite you two back to the Coachella Valley for the 2004 Pacific Life Open.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re having a great tournament here this year. Even with your absences -- and those of Andre, Pete, Monica, both Martinas and Anna (hey, at least she sells tickets) -- there has been some great tennis played here and a lot of breathtaking matches. Have you seen the men’s draw? Just when you thought American tennis was on life support it looks like we have a crop of great young kids. But I digress.
When I decided to combine the men’s and women’s events, the goal was to make this into a tournament comparable to a Grand Slam. And that’s not going to happen as long as you two are boycotting it. It’s been two years since that unfortunate "incident." It was not a sterling moment for tennis by any stretch. And I as look back, I could have handled some things better, the fans could have handled it better and, with all due respect, you guys might have done things differently too.
But let’s put that in the past. If you were to return in 2004, I can promise that you’ll be welcomed back with open arms. I’ll even give you vouchers for the Jamba Juice booth in the food court. In fact, I’ll pick you up at the airport and transport you to the hotel. On my back. Jeez, do you realize I had someone named Zvonareva on stadium court in the quarterfinals!?!?! And the men, don’t even get me started. Do you know I’m going to be paying some kid named Vahaly six figures if he wins one more match? And I’m supposed to sell tickets to Rochus-Spadea?
Sorry, I don’t know what got into me. Anyway, let’s face it, your return to Indian Wells would be great for tennis too. These are trying times for our sport and, more than ever, we all need to cooperate and go that extra mile to help pro tennis through a rough patch. The WTA Tour, as I’m sure you know, lacks a sponsor and a meaningful TV deal. It sure would help if we could count on the two top players to play the biggest events.
Serena, at the Australian Open, a reporter asked if you were out for revenge against Kim Clijsters, who, of course, had beaten you at the Staples Center. You responded, quite nicely I must say: "Vengeance belongs to the Lord." Writing off an entire tournament forever and disappointing thousands of your fans, all because of a few boors ... well, isn’t that a little, um, vengeful?
Gotta run (Lleyton is complaining about something or other.) But I hope you get my point. Apologies all around for 2001, but let's put this behind us. You’ve made your point and the good people here in the desert have taken it to heart. Now let’s move forward. Feel free to call me if you want to discuss further.
P.S. Serena, I’ve made the switch to Close-Up. That’s great stuff!!!!
To: Charlie Pasarell
From: Williams Sisters
Sent: 3/13/03 3:04 p.m.
Thanks for your e-mail. LMAO at Zvonareva. Still can’t believe she took a set off Serena at Roland Garros!
Anyway, it was big of you to write and personally invite us back to Indian Wells. A lot of men -- especially former pros from a certain era that was deep-fried in machismo -- would be too arrogant to do anything like that.
We always enjoyed playing your event (Serena especially) and the Tennis Garden is truly beautiful. But that experience in 2001 really stung. Still does. We saw that last week Agassi pulled out the day before he was supposed to play. Think he would have been booed like Jon Gruden at an Oakland town meeting? We saw that Mauresmo pulled out of her quarterfinal against Davenport less than an hour before the match. Didn’t hear a peep. (And she’s French!) Makes you wonder about some peoples' motivations, if you get our drift.
But you were candid and full of remorse and now it’s our turn. If we’re honest with ourselves, in looking back we probably could have handled the situation better too. We’ve also come around to realizing that being a star means that sometimes -- fairly or unfairly -- we’re held to a different level of conduct. We all make mistakes and we all learn.
While we don’t want to commit to anything yet, we will take your offer under advisement. We can’t even think about 2004, but let’s just say that three years sounds like a fair statute of limitations for inappropriate booing. Just promise us this: If we do come back, you won’t make us eat in the hotel restaurant!
Talk to you soon.
Venus and Serena.