Serena Williams' heartfelt open letter to Naomi Osaka: "It's time for me apologise”
Serena Williams has been heralded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. However,a controversial defeat at the US Open in 2018 left a stain on the legendary American’s name.
The championship match between Williams and Naomi Osaka left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth after a verbal altercation between the former world No. 1 and the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, gave her three on-court violations.
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The 23-time Grand Slam champion was penalised for illegal coaching, verbal abuse and breaking her racket – later she suggested Ramos’ court violations were motivated by sexism. Earlier this week, Williams set the record straight on her side of the story in an essay for Harper’s Bazaar for their August cover and in the letter openly revealed she sent 21-year-old Osaka an apology after the match.
“In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title,” Williams said.
“I thought back to my first Grand Slam. It’s the one you remember best; it’s supposed to be the most special. This debacle ruined something that should have been amazing and historic.
“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,” she continued.
“My heart broke.”
Williams detailed in the essay struggling to find peace in the days after the match against Osaka and once she began to see a therapist she realised there was “only one way to move forward".
“It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most,” she said.
“I started to type, slowly at first, then faster as if the words were flowing out of me.”
In her letter to Osaka, Williams said: “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. 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.”
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The tennis star said “tears rolled down” when she received Osaka’s response to her letter.
“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.”
The long journey on the road to self-recovery meant Williams considering she was to blame for Osaka’s bittersweet triumph disappeared when her former opponent encouraged her to keep fighting.
“This incident — though excruciating for us to endure — exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day,” Williams 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 penalises women just for being themselves.”