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Venus Williams Returns to Indian Wells

Fifteen years ago, Venus Williams took the world by storm when she entered the pro tour, beads swinging from her hair and a swagger in her step. Williams was an African-American from Compton, California, a stark contrast to a sport dominated by wealthy whites.

As a result, there were many setbacks for Venus and her sister Serena, the biggest being the 2001 scandal at Indian Wells. In this Southern California premier tournament, the sisters were constantly booed and heckled on account of their race. In turn, the sisters boycotted the event. Despite heavy fines and criticism for not participating in a mandatory WTA event, the Williams sisters remained persistent in their call for justice.

Fast forward 15 years, and Venus and Serena have won a combined 28 major singles titles, multiple doubles major championships together, and a couple of Olympic gold medals. Perhaps an even bigger victory is their humanitarian work off the court: Venus is a notable advocate for women and blacks alike. Despite all of the time that has passed, Venus and Serena continued to uphold their vow to never return to Indian Wells.

All this changed last year when Serena announced her return to the event in Time Magazine, sparking a media frenzy. Serena, a hometown hero, received endless cheers and praise as she walked onto the same Southern California courts that she was taunted on years before. Venus, however, still chose to sit on the sidelines.

A year later, Venus announced at the Australian Open that she would also be returning to Indian Wells this spring, completely ending the boycott that had turned the tennis world upside down.

Venus Williams has had a roller coaster of a career. While she has been one of the greatest champions of all time on the court, she has also overcome even greater adversity off the court. She has gone beyond tennis to better humanity and has bravely overcome Sjogren’s Syndrome, the auto-immune disease that has threatened her health and profession.
At the age of 35, Venus Williams battles on. But one question remains: will this be the last year we can watch this great champion?
It is critical that we recognize Venus in all her greatness as she walks into that crowded stadium this spring in Southern California.

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