Serena Williams has apologized for comments she made in a forthcoming interview in which she appeared to assign blame to the 16-year-old victim in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case for being drunk.
The comments were reported in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine and stirred up U.S. media attention on Wednesday.
"What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened," the women's world number one said in a statement on her website.
"For someone to be raped, and at only 16, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved - that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl's family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article.
"What was written — what I supposedly said — is insensitive and hurtful. I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.
"I have fought all of my career for women's equality, women's equal rights, respect in their fields - anything I could do to support women I have done.
"My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent 16-year-old child."
The victim accused two Ohio high school American football players of raping her while she was drunk at a party and testified that she remembered little of what happened in the early hours of August 12, 2012, when she says she was assaulted.