Venus Williams had withstood a thorny match on the No. 1 Court on the opening day of Wimbledon and then veered through several questions in the quiet interview room, avoiding the looming subject. Then she took it on squarely.
"There are no words to describe, like, how devastating and, yeah," she said Monday afternoon, her sentences trailing off. "Yeah, I am completely speechless. It's just - yeah, I mean, I'm just . . ." She began to cry, and the moderator asked reporters for patience while a five-time Wimbledon champion sat before a silent room.
As Williams approached her 20th Wimbledon and her opening 7-6 (9-7), 6-4 win over the Belgian Elise Mertens, news broke of her involvement in a car accident in South Florida on June 9. A passenger in the other car of that accident, 78-year-old Jerome Barson, died 13 days later. Williams was not cited or charged but became the object of a lawsuit from Barson's estate seeking unspecified damages. According to the police report, Williams crossed slowly in front of a car driven by Barson's wife, Linda, and the Barsons' Hyundai Accent had smashed into the side of Williams' Toyota Sequoia SUV.
After a few moments of silence in the interview room, the moderator asked Williams if she wished to depart, and Williams said, "Maybe I should go." She returned several minutes later to answer questions about her match and about missing her sister, the 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, who is missing this Wimbledon during pregnancy.
Early on in the session, Venus Williams had fielded questions about her general emotional state but had steered her answers entirely to tennis, except when she said, "I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, that's all I can say about it. That's what I've learned."
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