Having lost to Naomi Osaka in last year’s US Open final, Serena Williams did not return to the court again during the 2018 season. The championship match, which Osaka won in straight sets, was dominated by controversy surrounding Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who issued three separate code violations throughout the match—prompting the American to make claims of sexism.
In a first-person essay with Harper’s Bazaar published Tuesday, Williams revealed the lone way to put that incident behind her was to offer a written apology to Osaka, whose major breakthrough was overshadowed by way Williams lost in favor of how the Japanese stepped up to win.
“Days passed, and I still couldn’t find peace. 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 racquet,” said Williams. “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.”
As she explained further, Williams never expected to be pitted against the rising star. Upon reflection, Williams stated if she could hit the rewind button, would change her role in the way scenes played out.
“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,” Williams wrote to Osaka. “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!”
Osaka would respond. "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," shared Williams.
After reaching the last four at Wimbledon with a three-set win over Alison Riske, followed up by a second-round victory in mixed doubles alongside Andy Murray, Williams was asked about the timing of the open letter in her joint press conference with Murray on Tuesday evening.
“[It] was actually planned months ago. It wasn't like I was going to plan the release of it. I wasn't quite sure when the actual magazine was going to come out. It was all coincidental," Williams said."
Williams is two wins away from tying Margaret Court's all-time record 24 major singles titles. The 37-year-old will take on Barbora Strycova, a player she's won all six sets played against, in Thursday's semifinals.