One year after Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka in the 2018 U.S. Open finals, the 37-year-old athlete is opening up about the “excruciating” match for the very first time.
Williams recently penned a powerful essay in Harper’s Bazaar’s August 2019 issue, in which she revealed how her experience has changed her mindset about tennis.
“This incident—though excruciating for us to endure—exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day,” she wrote. “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 OK with. It’s shameful that our society penalized women just for being themselves.”
Williams is referring to the several violations she endured over the course of the match, including “cheating allegations” and “verbal abuse” with the umpire. Although it took a toll on her emotions, the athlete admitted that her biggest regret is letting her experience overshadow Osaka’s success.
“This debacle ruined something that should have been amazing and historic,” Williams continued. “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.”
The 23-time Grand Slam winner also took the opportunity to apologize to Osaka, writing, “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!”
Bless you, Serena. (Read Williams’s full essay on harpersbazaar.com.)