Alexi Lubomirski for Harper’s Bazaar
- Serena Williams says she was "cut deeply" by the controversy that surrounded her US Open loss against Naomi Osaka last year.
- In a raw essay penned for Harper’s Bazaar, Williams says she started seeing a therapist after the match in which she was given three code violations.
- "I felt defeated and disrespected by a sport that I love," she wrote.
- She also shared the message she sent to Osaka after the final, in which she said she was proud of her and "truly sorry."
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Serena Williams has finally opened up about how she was "cut deeply" by the controversy that surrounded her US Open loss against Naomi Osaka last year.
Williams was given three code violations during her straight-sets loss to Naomi Osaka last September in what could have otherwise been her 24th Grand Slam win.
As Business Insider’s Alan Dawson reported at the time, the first violation was for coaching, which Williams argued against. Williams was later given a violation for smashing her racket, costing her a point. Her third violation, for calling the umpire Carlos Ramos a "thief," cost her a game.
Before being fined $17,000 she repeatedly demanded an apology from Ramos, arguing that male players weren’t punished for similar, or worse, actions. "Because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?" she said.
In a raw essay penned for Harper’s Bazaar on July 9, Williams has now said of the events: "I felt defeated and disrespected by a sport that I love — one that I had dedicated my life to and that my family truly changed, not because we were welcomed, but because we wouldn’t stop winning."
Even once she returned home to Florida after the tournament, she said: "Every night, as I would try to go to sleep, unresolved questions ran through my mind in a never-ending loop: How can you take a game away from me in the final of a Grand Slam? Really, how can you take a game away from anyone at any stage of any tournament?
"I turn over, exhausted from lack of sleep, thoughts still spinning in my head. Why can’t I express my frustrations like everyone else? If I were a man, would I be in this situation? What makes me so different? Is it because I’m a woman?"
Williams added that she was "hurt — cut deeply" by what happened.
"I tried to compare it to other setbacks I’d had in my life and career, and for some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was about so much more than just me," she wrote.
"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. 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?’"
She went on: "So often, in situations similar to mine, when men fight back against the referees, they’re met with a smile or even a laugh from the umpire, as if they’re sharing an inside joke. I’m not asking to avoid being penalized. I am asking to be treated the same way as everyone else. Sadly, that’s simply not the world we currently live in."
Williams said that after she "couldn’t find peace" as days went on, she started seeing a therapist.
"I was searching for answers, and although I felt like I was making progress, I still wasn’t ready to pick up a racket.
"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."
She said she wrote a message to Naomi Osaka, telling her she was proud of her and "truly sorry."
She told Osaka: "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."
She said that when Osaka replied, "tears rolled down my face."
"People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two," Osaka apparently told her. "No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing."
Of the exchange, Williams said: "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."
She went on to say that the incident "exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day."
"We are not allowed to have emotions, we are not allowed to be passionate. We are told to sit down and be quiet, which frankly is just not something I’m okay with. It’s shameful that our society penalizes women just for being themselves."
She added that it was "a long time" before she picked up a racket again as "there is only so much one person can take."
"In short, it’s never been easy," she said. "But then I think of the next girl who is going to come along who looks like me, and I hope, ‘Maybe, just maybe, my voice will help her.’"
She said that her own daughter was ultimately the reason she "picked up a racket again."
"Love breathes life and newfound perspective into people," she wrote. "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?’"
- Serena Williams shared the text she sent Naomi Osaka apologizing after their controversial US Open final
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