Last month, tennis superstar Serena Williams experienced the most devastating loss of her career at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. Johanna Konta defeated Williams 6-1, 6-0 in the July 31 match, which lasted only 53 minutes.
It has since been revealed that Williams received some disturbing news minutes before she stepped on the court that day. In an in-depth interview with “Time” published Thursday, the tennis legend shared the troubling discovery that robbed her of her focus:
She was in a players’ area before her match in San Jose, with about 10 minutes until showtime, when she pulled out her phone and checked Instagram. There, she learned that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003, had been released on parole earlier this year.
“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” Williams recalled.
Price, the half-sister of Serena and Venus Williams, was killed on Sept. 14, 2003, by Robert Edward Maxfield. The mother of three was sitting in a vehicle with her boyfriend in Compton, California, when Maxfield opened fire in what was believed to be part of a dispute between rival gangs.
When Williams learned that Maxfield had been released three years ahead of his 15-year prison term for good behavior, all she could think about was her sister’s children, who were 11, 9 and 5 at the time of Price’s death.
“It was hard because all I think about is her kids,” she said, “and what they meant to me. And how much I love them.”
Williams described how she struggled to accept the reason behind Maxfield’s premature release.
“No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behavior,” she said. “It’s unfair that she’ll never have an opportunity to hug me.”
“But also…the Bible talks about forgiveness,” she continued. “I’m not there yet. I would like to practice what I preach, and teach Olympia that as well. I want to forgive. I have to get there. I’ll be there.”
Spoken like a true champion whose determination has enabled her to accomplish so much.
The “Time” interview covers a wide range of topics in Williams’s personal and professional life, including her marriage, motherhood and her return to tennis after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. The pro athlete’s reflections are a reminder that not even someone with her success is immune to the everyday challenge to love others, and to forgive. Read the full piece here.