TENTH-SEEDED Venus Williams, broke down in tears after being asked questions about the Palm Beach car crash, she was recently involved in, which left 78-year-old Jerome Barson dead and police believe she caused.
Williams, making her 20th appearance at Wimbledon, had just completed a reasonably straightforward first round victory over Elise Mertens 7-6 (9-7), 6-4.
The American – at 37 the oldest woman in the draw here – was at her imperious best in the opening stages, breaking Mertens in her opening service game and dictating points with her serve, before Mertens began varying her game, managing to claw her way back into the set.
A five-time singles champion at Wimbledon, Williams needed five set points before taking the first set against 21-year-old Mertens.
A rain delay on Court One then halted the progress of the American after Mertens saved two match points.
Mertens, playing her first Wimbledon, held and saved a further two match points before Williams produced an emphatic shot to secure victory.
In the news conference, Williams said: “Tennis is still the love of my life. It gives me joy.
“Life, you can’t prepare for everything. I prepared for a lot of matches, tried to get ready for whatever my opponent will throw at you, but you can’t prepare for everything.
“I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. That’s all I can say about it. That’s what I’ve learned.”
After fielding a few questions about the crash, Williams became visibly tearful, as she admitted, “There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and – yeah. I’m completely speechless. It’s just – yeah, I mean, I’m just …” her voice trailed off, before she rushed out of the conference.
After taking a few minutes to regain her composure with members of her team, she returned to the room.
Witnesses to the accident told Palm Beach police that Williams ran a red light, which caused the car, driven by the deceased’s wife Linda, to run into her own SUV, injuring Barson, who died 13 days later.
Williams told investigators she entered the six-lane intersection on a green light but was forced to stop midway through because of traffic ahead of her, failing to see the Barsons’ car when she continued through at about 5mph.
But police concluded the driver of Williams’s car was “at fault for violating the right of way”.
Linda Barson, 68, also sustained injuries, including “a cracked sternum, shattered right arm, broken wrist, hand and fingers”.
As one of only two former Wimbledon champions in the women’s field, Williams has a promising draw and perhaps a renewed ambition, plus she is in the form of her life, making her a real contender, even at 37.
Time will only tell whether the added pressure of her private life will eventually take it’s toll.