Serena Williams continued her defensive campaign against that pesky "eavesdropping" Rolling Stone reporters who "supposedly" caught her sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists and blaming the 16-year-old victim at a Wimbledon press conference on Sunday. Williams got herself into some very hot water after she said the Steubenville rape case's 16-year-old victim "shouldn't have put herself in that position," in a now-infamous Rolling Stone profile that went live last week. The tennis star currently competing for her sixth Wimbledon singles title used a Sunday press conference to further discredit Stephen Rodrick's reporting and also respond to her passive aggressive beefing with Maria Sharapova.
It seems that Williams is confused after years of dealing with the kid-gloves Tennis press corps that when you say things in front of a reporter they have every right to report on it. "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," she said Sunday. "You guys have completely spoiled me." So does this mean Tennis reporters usually hold back from reporting on other things Williams has said that could get her in trouble? Maybe! But this isn't Williams' first rodeo, and she knows it. "With that being said, I've been in the business for a little over 200 years, so I should definitely, definitely know better."
But, to her credit, Williams apologized again for her comments from the Rolling Stone article -- this time without still kind-of blaming the victim. "I apologize for everything that was said in that article," she said. She blamed her ignorance on not knowing all of the facts about the Steubenville rape case. "I feel like, you know, 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," she told the press conference. She also reached out to the victim's family immediately after her comments surfaced. "I reached out to the family 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."
The other side plot that emerged from that Rolling Stone article was comments Williams made about an unnamed fellow tennis player who "live, breathe and dress tennis," but will never get invited to the "cool parties" because the unnamed player is too boring. Oh, also, this very dedicated player is dating a guy "with a black heart." Williams never names names but Rodrick made an "educated guess" that she was talking about Maria Sharapova because she's dating one of Williams' exes. The passage in question:
"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.)
"Obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for Serena and what she's achieved on the court," Sharapova said. "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. 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."
Serena has been rumored to be dating her married 42-year-old trainer Patrick Mouratoglou. So what started out as Williams firing some subliminal shots at Sharapova (maybe) turned into a very real off-the-court beef pretty quickly.
But even though Williams never acknowledged it was Sharapova she was talking about, Williams said she was "told of the comments," and chased Sharapova down at a party to apologize, probably for fear of another Russian left hook. She chose to squash the budding tennis beef rather than respond. "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," she said. "I personally talked to Maria at the player party, incidentally. 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.'" Why Serena didn't choose to respond on the court, where she has historically dominated Sharapova, is a question for another day.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.