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Serena Williams Says She's Still Haunted By Indian Wells Incident 20 Years Ag

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Serena Williams is still traumatized by the 2001 incident that took place at the Indian Wells tournament.

Russian tennis player Elena Dementieva accused Williams's father Richard of manipulating the 2001 competition. When the comment surfaced, it led Venus Williams—who suffered a knee injury during the tournament—to withdraw from her semifinal match against Serena minutes before it started. 

That year, Serena advanced to the women's singles final match against Kim Clijsters. As Serena's father and sister made their way into the stands to support her, spectators in the crowd began to boo loudly. 

In a "Red Table Talk" interview with Will Smith that was released on Wednesday, Serena revealed that she is still traumatized from that experience, even after returning to the event in 2015 following her 14-year boycott.

"Talk about post-traumatic stress and mental anxiety," Williams said. "I remember sitting in the bathroom thinking, 'Wait, I'm not gonna go back. I just don't think I should do this. What if they start booing again?' It was really hard for me."

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Smith is starring as the Williams sisters' father in the upcoming biopic King Richard. Serena and Venus are executive producers on the project. 

While Serena defeated Clijsters in three sets to claim her second title at Indian Wells, Serena said the anger from spectators made her very emotional.

"It was so hard," Serena said. "I'll never forget driving back, and [Williams's sister] Yetunde was there, and I remember just getting in the car and I was just bawling. I was at the gas station, there was no celebration, and I was just crying and crying and crying."

Venus was also in attendance for the interview with Smith. While neither of the Williams sisters have announced when they will next compete after both were absent from the 2021 U.S. Open due to injuries, fans can look forward to seeing their extraordinary story on the big screen.

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