INDIAN WELLS, United States (AFP, REUTERS) - Serena Williams lifted the lid on her 2001 Indian Wells final Thursday, calling it one of the darkest days in her professional tennis career.
"I remember sitting down and praying," Williams told a packed news conference at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Thursday. "I think I was losing in the first set and I told myself I don't want to win this match.
"I just wanted to get through this moment. Not win the match, get through and get off the court pretty much."
The world number one said she is trying to forget the events of 2001, when the 19-year-old Serena was booed during the final by tennis fans who accused her and her sister Venus of rigging a match.
Williams said Thursday at the Tennis Garden stadium that she had to let go of the past before she could allow herself to end her 14-year boycott of the Indian Wells tournament.
"Before, I wasn't at a point where I was ready to come back to Indian Wells," Williams said. "I didn't think I would come back to be honest. I felt like I did what I needed to do. I had finished my career in terms of being here."
The 2001 booing was in apparent response to Serena's sister Venus having withdrawn from their semi-final that year just minutes before the match, citing a sore knee.
Because most of the fans had already taken their seats, many reacted in anger, loudly booing the announcement. Serena was then booed during the final against Clijsters. Venus, who attended the match with her father Richard, was also jeered by the crowd.
Even the peers of the Williams' sisters had their suspicions back in the day. Upon learning that Serena and Venus would square off in the semis, Elena Dementieva said at the time it would be Richard who would determine the winner of the match. Five-time grand slam winner Martina Hingis, who is competing in doubles in Indian Wells, used to say the outcome of their matches is a "family affair."
Said current world number one Serena on Thursday: "The whole point of me coming back was not to necessarily focus on what happened 14 years ago.
"It was more or less to focus on how I felt, if it was the right opportunity for me to come back now and for me to be at this tournament. I just felt like it was time.
"There's not one thing that says I should come back, that I should come back in 2015. I just felt like it was the right time for me to come back here and try to do the best that I could."
Serena and Venus have met 20 times since Indian Wells in 2001 with Serena winning 13 matches. Venus won their most recent encounter last year in Montreal 6-7 (7/9), 6-2, 6-3. They have never had another walkover between them.