Serena Williams Admits She’s Still Not Ready to Forgive Her Sister’s Killer

Even though the tennis player wants to forgive Robert Maxfield to set an example for her baby daughter Alexis Olympia, she isn’t quite ready.

Tennis icon Serena Williams is still trying to find it in her heart to forgive the man convicted of killing her half-sister in a 2003 shooting.

Yetunde Price, 31, was sitting in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car in Compton, California when she was hit in a drive-by shooting. She died instantly from a bullet believed to have been intended for her partner.

Robert Maxfield pleaded no contest voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years behind bars in 2006, but he scored an early release from prison for good behaviour, and was freed on parole last month.

Serena, who has been making her tennis comeback after becoming a mother last year, reveals she learned of his release right before she hit the court on 31 July at a tournament in San Jose, California, causing her to lose her focus – and suffer the worst loss of her career to Johanna Konta, who beat the superstar 6-1, 6-0.

“I couldn’t shake it out of my mind,” the sportswoman tells TIME magazine in a new cover interview.

No modern athlete who has reached @serenawilliams' level of stardom has ever returned from so difficult a childbirth, at her age, in a grueling individual sport like #tennis, to claim a major global championship. And since #Wimbledon, she’s faced a particularly rough stretch in her personal life. The man who killed her older sister Yetunde Price was released from prison. The postpartum symptoms haven’t fully gone away, and she says separating herself from Olympia, her 11-month-old daughter with her husband, tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, has become even harder. Why keep at it? “I’m not done yet, simple,” she tells TIME. She needs tennis as much as her sport needs her. It’s the one thing, as a mother, she can do solely for herself. “My story doesn’t end here.” Serena has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record. The U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 27 in New York City, is her last chance to even the score this year. Read this week's full cover story about her complicated comeback, motherhood and making time to be selfish on Photograph by @alessandra_sanguinetti—@magnumphotos for TIME

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“It was hard because all I think about is her kids, and what they meant to me. And how much I love them,” she says of Yetunde’s three young children, who were 11, nine, and five at the time of her passing.

Serena admits she has constantly been working through the pain of the tragedy, and although she wants to forgive Maxfield to set an example for her baby daughter Alexis Olympia, she isn’t quite ready.

“No matter what, my sister is not coming back for good behaviour,” she continues. “It’s unfair that she’ll never have an opportunity to hug me. But also… the Bible talks about forgiveness.”

“I’m not there yet,” Serena adds. “I would like to practise 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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