Top-seeded Serena Williams, who will begin pursuit of her 17th Grand Slam title on Tuesday when she faces Mandy Minella of Luxembourg on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court, on Sunday apologized for comments about a teenage rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio, and “everything that was said” in a recent Rolling Stone profile of her. She also said she planned to keep her focus on tennis this week.
“There’s one thing I’m really good at, and that’s hitting the ball over a net, in a box. I’m excellent,” she said at a pre-tournament news conference.
Williams also repeated that she had apologized to the Steubenville victim for saying the girl “shouldn’t have put herself in that position.” Williams also said she had reached out to rival Maria Sharapova on Thursday to apologize for comments in that article that were presumed to be about Sharapova.
While speaking on the phone with her sister, Venus, Williams was quoted as saying a “top-five player” is boring and won’t be invited to cool parties and “if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.” Those remarks were widely interpreted as a reference to Sharapova’s boyfriend, Grigor Dimitrov, who reportedly dated Serena Williams.
The overture made by Williams at the pre-tournament players’ party apparently didn’t satisfy Sharapova.
On Saturday she said of Williams: “If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.” Williams, who has been romantically linked to her coach, Frenchman Patrick Mouratoglou, declined Sunday to respond to that barb.
“I definitely was told of her comments. I definitely like to keep my personal life personal,” Williams told reporters. “I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it.”
Sharapova, the No. 3 seed, begins play Monday with a match against 37th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic. Among the men, top-seeded Roger Federer will open play on Center Court against Victor Hanescu of Romania, the first step in his pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon championship.
“You feel very unique, clearly, because you are the one opening the court,” he said. “I think it’s a big deal for ... the players I’ve played, who got the ‘unluck’ or luck of the draw to play me in that first round.”
Also scheduled to play Monday: No. 2 seed Andy Murray of Great Britain and No. 5 Rafael Nadal. No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic begins play Tuesday.