Serena Williams says that she regrets her actions in last year’s US Open final against Naomi Osaka after an ongoing dispute between the American and the chair umpire marred the then 20-year-old’s victory.
Williams revealed in a new edition of Harper’s Bazaar magazine that she had penned a heartfelt apology to Osaka, in a long-form essay in which she is critical of her own behavior in the match which saw Osaka win her first ever Grand Slam title.
In the essay, Williams, 37, outlines that she didn’t realize the impact her furious verbal attack on umpire Carlos Ramos – whom she branded a “liar” and “thief” – would have on the media perception of her and Osaka, who has since topped the world rankings.
After wrestling with her conscience, she revealed she had written to Osaka to apologize.
“Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams,” she wrote. “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.”
Williams further details her regret at the incident, adding that she began to see a therapist in its aftermath.
“[My discomfort] 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,” she added.
“I 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.”
Williams, who advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals on Tuesday, noted that she received a response from Osaka who according to Williams said: “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.”
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Naomi Osaka of Japan hugs Serena Williams after winning the Women’s Singles finals match of the 2018 U.S. Open, on Sept. 8. Serena Williams was penalized a game for calling the chair umpire a thief during an extended argument, as the U.S. Open women’s final descended into chaos, with fans booing and play delayed before Naomi Osaka wrapped up a 6-2, 6-4 victory for her first Grand Slam title. During the trophy ceremony thousands of fans jeered repeatedly. Williams put an arm around Osaka’s shoulder and told the crowd: “I know you guys were here rooting, and I was rooting, too, but let’s make this the best moment we can…. We’re going to get through this and let’s be positive. So congratulations, Naomi. No more booing.” Osaka, 20, is the first player from Japan to win a major singles tennis title and idolizes Williams. Photograph by Matthew Stockman (@mstockers1)—@gettyimages
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Osaka suffered a shock first round exit in this year’s Wimbledon, losing in straight sets to Yana Putintseva to compound her current poor form which resulted in a third-round exit from the French Open last month.