WIMBLEDON, England — Serena Williams took full responsibility Sunday for her controversial remarks about a highly publicized rape case and revealed that she apologized to Maria Sharapova for comments that were presumed to be a swipe at her love life.
In a recent Rolling Stone article, author Stephen Rodrick was with Williams at a nail salon when she saw news of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case.
Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
Rodrick was also alongside Williams while she was on the phone with sister Venus gossiping about another player, whom Rodrick believes to be Sharapova.
After chattering about their dad, they move on to gossip. As usual, Serena does most of the talking.
“There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest.” Serena exits the car and the conversation moves on to a top-five player who is now in love. “She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ – it’s so boring,” says Serena in a loud voice. “She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.” (An educated guess is she’s talking about Sharapova, who is now dating Grigor Dimitrov, one of Serena’s rumored exes.)
The fallout from the article has been swift. A day after Deadspin published her comments about the Steubenville rape victim, Serena apologized in a statement and reached out to the family.
“I apologize for everything that was said in that article,” a composed and polished Williams said at her pre-Wimbledon news conference Sunday. “I feel like you say things without having all the information. It’s really important before you make certain comments to have a full list, have all the information, all the facts. I reached out to the family [of the Steubenville rape victim] immediately once the article came out, and I had a really productive, sincere conversation with the mother and the daughter. We came to a wonderful understanding, and we’re constantly in contact.”
Williams also said she apologized to Sharapova at Thursday’s WTA Wimbledon party.
“I made it a point to reach out to Maria, as well, because she was inadvertently brought into the situation by assumptions made by the reporter,” Williams said. “I said, ‘Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation.’
“I have the most respect for Maria on and off the court. That’s another reason why, being a woman, I wanted to reach out to her and say, ‘Look, this is this, this is this, sorry.’”
Here’s video of Serena’s comments, courtesy of ESPN.
Williams said she believes Sharapova accepted her apology, but the Russian’s comments at a news conference Saturday suggest otherwise. Sharapova said Williams should be more concerned about her own personal life rather than her colleagues’.
“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,” Sharapova said, referring to Serena’s unconfirmed relationship with her coach/consultant Patrick Mouratoglou. “Talk about other things, but not draw attention to other things. She has so much in her life, many positives, and I think that’s what it should be about.”
Aware of Sharapova’s comments, Serena declined to comment on the status of her personal life or whether she’s angry that Sharapova brought it up.
“I’m not really going comment on that, whether I’m disturbed or not,” Williams said. “I know she also said that I should definitely focus on the tennis here, and I feel like that is another thing I can definitely take her advice on. Maybe I wasn’t focused enough in the past on tennis. I’m definitely going to try to focus on that for the next two weeks.”
As for the article itself, Williams said “it is what it is” and that she should have known better than to be so flippant with her comments.
“I feel like what happened, if you read the interview, I was involved in a private conversation that he even wrote in the article that he said he was listening to,” Williams said of Rodrick, who doesn’t cover tennis regularly. “I take full blame and responsibility for that because I’ve been in the business for years and years and I should always in a way have my guard up.
“I’ve been spoiled dealing with professionalism here in the tennis world,” she said. “I’m used to dealing with these people not writing or commenting on a private conversation that I may have or kind of listening in or eavesdropping and then reporting on it. You guys have completely spoiled me.”
Williams beat Sharapova for the French Open title two weeks ago, and the two could meet in the Wimbledon final. Serena, the defending Wimbledon champion, has won 13 consecutive matches against Sharapova in a streak that began in 2005. Williams said she would look forward to facing Sharapova at the All England Club.
“I think Maria and I have great matches,” Williams said. “I think it’s great for women’s tennis when we play each other. The same when Venus and I play each other, or me and Victoria [Azarenka]. When we’re in the final, it’s a really, really good matchup. I think we both have so much intensity on the court, and we just really love the game.”