Serena Williams Writes Essay Apologizing to U.S. Open Opponent

Top tennis players including icon Serena Williams are still vying for the championship at Wimbledon 2019. Williams just made news on receiving a $10,000 fine for damaging one of Wimbledon’s courts at the All England Club during a practice session before this year’s tournament, according to CNN. The tennis pro has been fined in the past as well, and recently addressed an incident in an open essay for the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams | TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Heat on and off the court

A little less than a year ago, Williams lost the final match in the 2018 U.S. Open to Naomi Osaka. Throughout the match, Williams had several confrontations with the chair’s umpire, Carlos Ramos, according to E! News. The article reported that the first interaction between the two involved Ramos accusing Williams of getting instructions from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou when he was in the stands, which is against the rules. Williams denied the accusation and demanded that Ramos apologize. “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,” Williams wrote in her essay for Harper’s Bazaar. Though Mouratoglou later said that indeed was coaching Williams from the stands, he added “100 percent of the coaches in 100 percent of the matches” use the same practice.

Williams and Ramos again had a heated encounter when the tennis icon smashed her racket on the court, costing her a second violation and a lost point. Williams then called Ramos a “thief” for taking the point, which prompted him to put another strike agains Williams for “verbal abuse,” as reported by E! News. The tennis pro later said the sport is guilty of sexism, saying male athletes get away with “much worse” on the court.

Osaka won the tournament, but it was not a sweet victory for the young tennis player. She tearfully apologized for winning, as she faced boos from the crowd. Williams even had to ask the fans to stop the negative reaction.

Time of reflection

After the tournament, Williams remained unsettled over the entire experience, and it wasn’t just due to the loss. “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,” Williams wrote. “My heart broke. I started to think again, ‘What could I have done better? Was I wrong to stand up? Why is it that when women get passionate, they’re labeled emotional, crazy, and irrational, but when men do they’re seen as passionate and strong?’”

Williams soon decided to seek outside help. “Days passed, and I still couldn’t find peace. I started seeing a therapist,” she wrote. The tennis pro soon discovered what would help heal the situation. “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,” she said.

A written apology

Williams penned a heartfelt apology to Osaka, sharing it in her essay with Harper’s Bazaar. “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,” she wrote. “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.”

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka | Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Osaka apparently received the apology wholeheartedly, replying to Williams saying, “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two… No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”

Williams said when she received the response from Osaka, “tears rolled down my face… It was in this moment that I realized the real reason the US Open was so hard for me to get over: It wasn’t because of the backlash I faced but rather because of what had happened to the young woman who deserved so much more in her special moment. I had felt that it was my fault and that I should have kept my mouth closed. But now, seeing her text putting everything in perspective, I realized she was right.”

Williams said her ultimate inspiration comes from her daughter, Alexis Olympia. “Ultimately, my daughter is the reason I use my voice, the reason I picked up a racket again,” she wrote. “Love breathes life and newfound perspective into people. It’s not about quitting when someone presents a challenge; it’s about getting up when you are down, dusting yourself off and asking, ‘Is that the best you got?’ Because I have God with me, and I can take whatever comes my way.”