In a personal essay, Serena Williams got candid about how the 2018 US Open final and aftermath affected her, while also vowing to continue standing up for what she believes in.
The latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine features Williams on the cover with no retouching to alter her appearance, and through her words, she also presents herself in a raw and unfiltered state.
“When I’m giving speeches I always say how important it is to love what you do,” she wrote. “If you don’t, then find something that speaks to you. Follow your passion. Of course, there are times when loving tennis is hard.”
I’m proud to use my voice and words to share an essay on the raw feelings I had during a match we may all remember. The essay and unretouched photos are live on @harpersbazaarus. Link in bio. Photographed by @alexilubomirski Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen Styling by @menamorado
And for the 23-time Grand Slam champion, few times have been harder than what transpired during and after last year’s US Open final, which she lost in straight sets to Naomi Osaka.
In the second set, she was issued a warning for receiving hand signals from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. She vehemently argued against the chair umpire Carlos Ramos that she was cheating, and was later given a point deduction for racquet abuse. Ramos then docked her a game for what he perceived as umpire abuse, putting Osaka one game from the title.
“In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title. I could not have been happier for her,” she wrote. “As for me, 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.”
Over the following days and weeks, she went to a therapist to help her process her feelings around the match and the subsequent furor. She came to the realization that there was a crucial step she had to take.
“It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most,” she wrote. “I started to type, slowly at first, then faster as if the words were flowing out of me.
“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,” she texted. “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.”
“Ultimately, my daughter is the reason I use my voice, the reason I picked up a racket again. 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?’” Read #SerenaWilliams full essay in our unretouched issue at the link in bio. Photography by @alexilubomirski Styling by @menamorado Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen #SerenaWilliams wears @lanvinofficial, @davidyurman, @audemarspiguet
Osaka replied, “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,” she said. “No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”
During her back-and-forth with Ramos, Williams expressed that she was being treated unfairly because she was a woman, noting that men have said and done far worse without such penalties being levied against them.
“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 okay with. It’s shameful that our society penalizes women just for being themselves.
Introducing our August cover star... @SerenaWilliams! The tennis superstar goes unretouched, and gets candid in a first-person essay about last year’s controversial match at the US Open—and why she’ll never regret using her voice to speak out against injustice. Link in bio Photography by @alexilubomirski Styling by @menamorado Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen Nails by #KimberlyTa #SerenaWilliams wears @stellamccartney and @tiffanyandco
“Growing up as the youngest of five girls, I learned that I had to fight for everything I wanted. And I won’t ever stop raising my voice against injustice,” she continued.
At Wimbledon this year, Williams is through to the semifinals in singles, where she’ll face unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova. In mixed doubles, she and Andy Murray lost on Wednesday to the top seeds.
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