Serena Williams didn’t get into the specifics after her 6-1, 6-0 loss to Johanna Konta on July 31 in San Jose, the first time in her storied career that she was able to take only one game from her opponent in defeat. Instead, she hinted that something was weighing her down mentally.
“I have so many things on my mind [that] I don’t have time to be shocked about a loss that clearly wasn’t at my best right now,” she told reporters.
Williams could have been talking about any number of things: her young daughter Olympia, her clothing line, anything. But it was something much more unbearable. In a story by Time magazine’s Sean Gregory, Williams revealed that, 10 minutes before her match against Konta, she learned that the man who had been imprisoned after the shooting death of her half sister, Yetunde Price, in 2003 had been released on parole in March.
“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” Williams told Gregory. “It was hard because all I think about is her kids and what they meant to me. And how much I love them.”
Price was 31, and her children were 11, 9 and 5 at the time she was shot in the back of her head while riding in an SUV with her boyfriend in Compton, Calif. Prosecutors claimed Robert Edward Maxfield, an alleged gang member, opened fire on the vehicle while guarding a crack house and that Price’s boyfriend, also an alleged gang member, was the intended target. Charged with murder, Maxfield’s first two trials ended in mistrials after jurors were unable to reach a verdict. One day before the third trial was set to begin in 2006, he agreed to plead no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. A judge sentenced Maxfield to 15 years in prison, with the three years he spent in jail between his arrest and his plea counting as time served. Williams addressed him at the sentencing, saying she wanted to let him “know that this was unfair to our family, and our family has always been positive and we always try to help people.”
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s inmate records, Maxfield, who is now 38, was rearrested July 27 for what People described as a parole violation. He was released from jail Aug. 1, one day after Williams’s loss to Konta.
“No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behavior,” Williams told Gregory. “It’s unfair that she’ll never have an opportunity to hug me. But also … the Bible talks about forgiveness.”
She added that she has yet to forgive Maxfield.
“I’m not there yet,” she said. “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.”
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