INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The first match of the next phase of Serena Williams’ career – the one that includes a husband and baby – began Thursday night at the BNP Paribas Open.
The victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, while a straight-set, 7-5, 6-3 win, had its solid moments and its rocky moments.
But the ice is broken now. And 14 months after her last match, the Australian Open women’s singles final against sister Venus, the 36-year-old is back.
The questions during her press conference were mostly the expected ones, and Williams seemed in particularly expansive form in answering them.
But one member of the credentialed media chose this night to ask Williams about the backdated therapeutic-use exemption she was granted nearly three years ago, at the 2015 French Open.
The TUE was part of the batch of documents leaked by the Fancy Bear hacker group shortly after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Williams answered firmly, passionately about her belief in competing clean – especially now that she’s a mother, but also before that.
Williams said that she needed the TUE to be able to take a decongestant because without it, there was no way she would be able to play the French Open final.
She was indeed, very sick at the time – constantly hacking. The TUE was for prednisolone; the leaked document dated June 8, 2015 for a six-day exemption between June 5 and June 10.
June 8, 2015 – it should be noted – was a Monday. It’s more than likely, given the way these organizations operate, that they wouldn’t have officially issued the document over the weekend. But they may well have issued a verbal or official consent for Williams to take the medication.
At any rate, Williams used the inopportune opportunity to give a clear, strong statement about how she feels about competing clean.
But Serena can't really say that she's "always been very happy to answer any question about that."
The only other time Serena was asked about those T.U.E.s, soon after their release in the fall of 2016, she responded by walking out of a French TV interview. pic.twitter.com/p6YMLAkQ8X
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 9, 2018