By Leighton Ginn
INDIAN WELLS — The victory was a long-time coming for Venus Williams and came with a lot of drama.
Williams rallied from a 1-6, 1-4 deficit and fought off three match points in the second set to beat former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic for her first victory at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001.
In 2001, Williams withdrew from her semifinal match against Serena Williams minutes before the prime-time showdown. During the finals, Serena was booed throughout, and much of it was also directed at Venus and her father Richard, who were in their court-side box.
It wasn’t until 2015 when Serena returned to Indian Wells, and Venus followed suit last year.
However, Venus lost her opening match, which made Saturday’s victory her first in Indian Wells in 16 years.
“It was nice to get a win here after so very long. It’s very rewarding,” Williams said. “The past is the past, but I’m happy that I was able to move forward and everyone was able to move forward. I had so much support today.”
Early on, it didn’t look like Williams would get her victory at Indian Wells as she was down 4-1 in the second and had to fight off three match points in the set.
One match point haunted Jankovic. Williams was up at the net, creating an opportunity to end the match.
“I was supposed to play that cross forehand and the match would be over,” Jankovic said. “But I played down the line right to her and she made the volley winner. It was a big mistake on that match point, but this is sports. What can I do? I made bad choices, bad mistakes when it was most important. That is all.
“Overall, I had my chances, I had everything under control and I let it slip away. I got a little nervous and I made bad errors.”
During the post-match press conference, Williams was asked about a variety of topics, including her thoughts on the controversial ending at last year’s tournament.
Tournament director Raymond Moore had made unfortunate comments about women’s players owing the men and they should get on their knees. Days later, Moore resigned his position amid the firestorm it created. Moore still works at the tournament.
Venus Williams said she didn’t want to dwell on the event and was willing to move on.
“If I wasn’t willing to move on, I wouldn’t be back in Indian Wells. It’s no good to hang on to things,” Williams said. “The tournament really is a huge supporter of women’s tennis and a huge supporter of men’s tennis and just tennis in general. The women love playing here.
“I was happy that the tournament did stand for equality and low tolerance of inequality. I think sometimes people make mistakes. He probably didn’t intend — you don’t wake up in the morning and say that this is going to happen. I don’t think that’s how he was planning his morning. Sometimes things happen, and we all should understand that everyone can have a bad day, and we all can just get better.”