London, July 3 (AFP) Venus Williams broke down in tears during a Wimbledon press conference today when she was asked about her involvement in a fatal car crash.
Williams is being sued by the estate of an elderly Florida man who died last month after his vehicle was hit by a car driven by the American star.
The 37-year-old is accused of running a red light, inattentive driving and negligent operation of a vehicle, leaving Jerome Barson with a fractured spine and numerous internal injuries before his death several weeks later.
After her 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 victory over Elise Mertens in the Wimbledon first round, world number 11 Williams was repeatedly asked about the incident by the media and eventually became so emotional she began to cry.
“There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and — yeah. I’m completely speechless. It’s just…” Williams said.
The five-time Wimbledon champion held her head for several moments and asked to leave the room before returning, still visibly shaken, to finish the interview session several minutes later.
Williams, who owns a home near the crash site, last week said she was “heartbroken” over the tragic incident as she prepared to make her 20th appearance at Wimbledon.
She was focused enough on court against Mertens, but it quickly became clear the press conference wasn’t going to be so easy to deal with.
Asked about her feelings during such a difficult period, she tried to keep her answers limited to tennis at first.
“I’ve definitely played a lot of tennis. It’s a good thing to be on the court,” she said.
“Tennis is still the love of my life. You know, it gives me joy.
“This is my 20th Wimbledon. I never thought that I’d play this many. But I’m grateful to be here and to play.”
The accident remains under investigation and Williams has not been charged.
Williams’ attorney, Malcolm Cunningham said his client entered an intersection on a green light that turned red during her turn, but she was stuck in the intersection because of traffic.
The police report said Williams was deemed at fault for blocking the right of way of the other vehicle.
When she was asked how she was coping mentally, Williams added: “I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. That’s all I can say about it. That’s what I’ve learned.”
At such a traumatic time, the seven-time Grand Slam winner admitted she would have loved to be able to spend more time with her sister Serena.
But reigning Wimbledon champion Serena is out of action at the moment as she prepares to give birth to her first child later this year.
“I miss her a lot. I think she misses me,” Venus said.