WIMBLEDON, England — Venus Williams said there were “no words to describe” how she felt about the fatal traffic accident she was involved in last month.
Following a 7-6 (7), 6-4 first-round win over Elise Mertens in her 20th Wimbledon on Monday, Williams had to confront questions about the accident that caused the death of a Florida man. Williams was asked about a Facebook post from last week in which she wrote how “devastated and heartbroken” she was by the accident.
“There are really no words to describe, like, how devastating and . . . yeah. I’m completely speechless,” Williams said on Monday. “It’s just, I mean, I’m just . . . ”
Williams then reached up to her face and began to cry, at which point the All-England Lawn Tennis Club official moderating the post-match interview asked if she would like a minute outside.
“Maybe I should go,” she said, sobbing, and was escorted from the room.
About three minutes later, apparently composed, Williams returned, with the moderator advising reporters to stick to tennis questions.
Palm Beach Gardens police say witnesses told investigators that Williams ran a red light in her 2010 Toyota Sequoia SUV on June 9, causing a crash that injured 78-year-old Jerome Barson, who died two weeks later.
The report says a 2016 Hyundai Accent driven by Barson’s wife, Linda, crashed into the side of Williams’ SUV. Linda Barson told investigators that she was approaching the intersection when her light turned green and that she was unable to stop in time. Linda Barson suffered unspecified moderate injuries. Williams was not hurt.
Police said Williams was at fault in the crash. The Barson family subsequently filed a wrongful-death suit against Williams.
A five-time Wimbledon champion, Williams, 37, was playing in her first tournament since losing in the fourth round of the French Open on June 4.
Williams, the No. 10 seed at Wimbledon, had a strange match against Mertens, a Belgian who is 54th in the WTA rankings, on Court 1. Williams won the first three games and lost the next three in the first set. Eventually, the set would go to a tiebreaker, which Williams won.
Williams was leading 5-3 and at 40-40 in the second set when rain caused a 33-minute delay. After the delay, Mertens held serve and closed to 5-4 before Williams served out the match.
“I feel very comfortable here,” Williams said of Wimbledon’s grass courts. “I like the surface.”
Williams plays Wang Qiang in the second round on Wednesday, with questions about the accident potentially resurfacing.
“I have no idea what tomorrow will bring,” Williams said. “That’s all that I can say about it. That’s what I’ve learned.”