Serena’s boycott of Indian Wells came at a cost

Federer welcomes American’s decision to take part in Indian Wells event

By Alex Leach - Senior Reporter

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Published: Wed 25 Feb 2015, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:45 PM

Dubai — Serena Williams’ 14-year boycott of Indian Wells has come at a cost to her legacy according to fellow great Roger Federer, with the Swiss believing her self-imposed exile has deprived Williams of many more weeks as the world number one. Serena hasn’t competed at that particular event Stateside since 2001, when — as a then-teenager – she, her older sister Venus and father Richard were racially abused during her 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Belgium’s Kim Clijsters in a final marred by heckling and misbehaviour by some fans.

However, she will contest this year’s edition at the Californian resort next month and Federer has welcomed that long-awaited news, even if there’s a nagging belief bigoted beliefs have adversely affected her illustrious career in this isolated instance. “I expected it to happen much earlier to be honest, especially as soon as Larry Ellison came in (Ellison purchased the tournament and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in December 2009),” Federer admitted. “At some stage, I thought they would have talked about it and work it out in some shape or form and just said, like: ‘What happened before, let’s move on.’

Swiss maestro apologises to Pakistan cricket fans

Dubai — Roger Federer has apologised to Pakistan’s cricket fans after a picture of him holding up an Indian ODI jersey was widely circulated on social media with the rather ill-advised hashtag #BleedBlue.

The 33-year-old Swiss released a promotional photograph on Facebook and Twitter earlier this month with the comment: “Dressing up for a Gentleman’s game today” ahead of the India vs Pakistan match at the Cricket World Cup in Adelaide.

The brainchild of sportswear brand Nike, it can only be presumed it was thought the pic would help further ingratiate Federer – and, by inference, the distinctive swoosh label – with the retail market in India, where the 17-time Grand Slam champion represented IPTL franchise the Micromax Indian Aces back in December.

However, the idea backfired badly in a certain sector of the Indian subcontinent, with Pakistan’s followers up in arms that Federer should seemingly pledge his allegiance to their bitter arch rivals inside the boundary rope. “The idea wasn’t to spark any fire, so I’m sorry that it did,” Federer explained. “It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. It was a Nike campaign they had because I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India, so they presented the shirt to me. I got the shirt while I was in India.

“Everybody knows that I support South Africa (His mother Lynette is South African and he holds both Swiss and South African citizenship).”

— Alex Leach

“I understand it was a big deal for her, but it’s nice seeing that she’s moving on. It’s such a nice tournament and, had she played the last 14 years, she probably would have won the event at least five, maybe 10 times. If you think about it, it has perhaps cost her many week at world number one when you add those 500 to 1,000 points throughout that time.

“It was a big sacrifice from her side and I must say it’s nice to see her back in Indian Wells.” Federer is then seemingly not averse to making his views known about an issue as clear-cut as racism.

However, it should come as no surprise to anybody that a sports personality of his standing and stature is still somewhat selective when it comes to commenting on certain topics. “We get asked questions about all sorts of things, but you don’t always have to have an opinion about everything,” Federer explained.

“I understand that when you’re among the leaders of a certain sport, people are very curious to hear what we think. But, that doesn’t mean that we’re always that happy to talk about it. I take my role as an idol and a role model for kids very seriously, especially in tennis or in sport. But then, if you want to talk about more and utilise the power of the microphone more often, you can and – if you don’t – you can choose not to.

“It also needs to be respected. I try to always answer to everything and anything. But – sometimes – I also have to be careful and I don’t want to always say something about it because, at the end of the day, you’re only a tennis player. It’s important to know that.”

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