How Therapy Helped Serena Williams Get Over 2018 U.S. Open Loss

Serena Williams, who has won the U.S. Open six times in her illustrious and historic career as a tennis player, revealed how therapy helped her deal with her loss to Naomi Osaka at the 2018 U.S. Open. Keep reading to learn how Williams described the situation and the aftermath in a personal essay she wrote for the August 2019 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Serena Williams on what happened at the U.S. Open

Here’s how Williams described the events leading up to her loss at the U.S. Open last year: 

“It’s the beginning of the second set, and the umpire thinks he spots my coach signaling me from the stands. He issues a violation—a warning. I approach him and emphatically state the truth: that I wasn’t looking at my coach. ‘I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,’ I said. I walk back to the court and lose the next point. I smash my racket in frustration; he issues another violation and gives a point to my opponent. I feel passionately compelled to stand up for myself. I call him a thief; I again demand an apology. I tell him he is penalizing me for being a woman. He responds by issuing a third violation and takes a game from me.”

Watch Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open. | ESPN via YouTube

Williams got a therapist to help her deal with the loss

In her personal essay, Williams wrote she felt “defeated and disrespected” by tennis after what happened at the tournament.

She explained she “still couldn’t find peace” days later, noting she stayed up at night replaying everything over and over in her mind. She couldn’t even bring herself to play tennis. 

Williams’s fixation led her to seek out the help of a therapist. She wanted answers and learned the reason why she couldn’t get over the loss was that she felt she overshadowed Osaka’s first Grand Slam title.

“Not only was a game taken from me but a defining, triumphant moment was taken from another player, something she should remember as one of the happiest memories in her long and successful career,” she wrote.

Williams believed she could move on only by apologizing to Osaka. 

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams at the U.S. Open in 2018
Naomi Osaka of Japan after winning the Women’s Singles finals match alongside runner up Serena Williams of the United States on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018, in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. | Julian Finney/Getty Images

“Finally I realized that there was only one way for me to move forward. It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most. I started to type, slowly at first, then faster as if the words were flowing out of me,” Williams wrote. 

Apology Serena Williams made to Naomi Osaka

Williams sent her 2018 U.S. Open opponent an apology text, which she shared in her personal essay. 

Serena Williams for Harper’s Bazaar August 2019 issue. | Harper’s Bazaar via Instagram

Below is what the message said: 

“Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams. As I said on the court, I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena.”

How Naomi Osaka responded to Serena Williams’s apology text

Here’s what Osaka said in her reply to Williams: 

“People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,” she said graciously. “No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”

Williams noted in her essay she started crying the moment she read Osaka’s message. 

Watch the 2019 U.S. Open Aug. 26 – Sept. 8.