Serena Williams says she struggled after last year’s controversial U.S. Open final, which saw her lose to Naomi Osaka after arguing with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
During the September 2018 final, Williams received a warning from Ramos who said her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was violating the rules by giving her hand signals from the stands. Mouratoglou later admitted in an interview that he was trying to send her a signal, but Williams maintained she wasn’t cheating.
At the time, Williams responded by telling the umpire, “I don’t cheat to win; I’d rather lose.” She then received violations for smashing her racket in frustration and for “verbal abuse” toward Ramos after she called him a “thief.” Following the match, Williams was fined $17,000.
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In a first-person essay published Tuesday by Harper’s Bazaar, the tennis champion said she sought help from a therapist following the controversy, which made headlines around the world.
“Days passed, and I still couldn’t find peace. I started seeing a therapist,” she explained. “I was searching for answers, and although I felt like I was making progress, I still wasn’t ready to pick up a racket.”
She’d lost other matches before, but said the U.S. Open defeat felt “different.”
“I tried to compare it to other setbacks I’d had in my life and career, and for some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was about so much more than just me,” she wrote.
While some considered the umpire’s calls sexist and unfair, others lashed out at Williams and accused her of poor sportsmanship.
In this candid, first-person essay, @serenawilliams opens up about last year's controversial match at the US Open—and why she’ll never regret using her voice to speak out against injustice. https://t.co/ponD4BGMie
— Harper's Bazaar (@harpersbazaarus) July 9, 2019
The tennis star said the dispute weighed heavily on her mind. She realized the only way to move forward was to apologize “to the person who deserved it the most,” prompting her to write an email to Osaka.
“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,” Williams wrote. ” 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!”
Williams’ essay appears in the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar. She also posed for a series of photos, which the magazine said were published un-retouched.