Serena Williams reveals she sent an apology letter to Naomi Osaka after 2018 controversial U.S. Open defeat

By Danielle Garrand

/ CBS News

Serena Williams' violations hits a note

Last year, Naomi Osaka defeated tennis legend Serena Williams at the women's U.S. Open final, winning her first Grand Slam title and becoming the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles championship. However, the celebration was partially overshadowed by Williams' argument with a chair umpire during the U.S. Open finals who gave her several penalties.

In a new essay for August's Harper's Bazaar — for which Williams is gracing the cover — the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion revealed she apologized to her opponent, for the "debacle" that "ruined something that should have been amazing and historic."

The athlete explained the match stuck with her when she returned home, keeping her awake as she tried to go to sleep. "Why can't I express my frustrations like everyone else? If I were a man, would I be in this situation? What makes me so different? Is it because I'm a woman?"

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However, she added in the first-person essay that the hurt was "different" and she "couldn't shake the feeling that this was about so much more than just me." She explained her "heart broke" thinking that what should have been a wonderful moment in Osaka's career was taken from her.

Serena Williams argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her Women's Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka. Getty

The superstar revealed days passed, but she still couldn't "find peace" and even began seeing a therapist. Yet, she wasn't "ready" to pick up a racket. Then, she said she realized the only way for her to move on was to apologize to Osaka. "I started to type, slowly at first, then faster as if the words were flowing out of me," she wrote.

She included the full text of the letter in the article:

"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."

She also included Osaka's response, which she said caused tears to roll down her face. "People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can't differentiate between the two," she said, according to Williams. "No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing."

The mother of one then pivoted, to include a larger context, explaining how the incident was representative of how women in the workforce are treated every day."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."

The 2018 final will forever be remembered for the way Williams clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, demanding an apology after he initially issued a warning for a code violation in the second set's second game for receiving coaching, which is not allowed during Grand Slam matches.

Later in the game, she smashed her racket on the court, destroying it, which drew a second code violation — and, automatically, cost Williams a point. When she realized that the next game had started with Osaka ahead 15-love, Williams told Ramos he should have retracted the initial warning for coaching.

"I have never cheated in my life!" Williams said. "You owe me an apology."

She resumed arguing with Ramos later, saying, "You stole a point from me. You're a thief, too." He responded by issuing a third code violation, which results in a lost game. That made it 5-3 for Osaka.

The win was further tarnished when thousands of fans jeered repeatedly during the trophy ceremony as Osaka and Williams cried.

Williams stuck up for her opponent, put an arm around her shoulder and told the crowd, "Let's make this the best moment we can. We're going to get through this and let's be positive. So congratulations, Naomi. No more booing."

2018 US Open - Day 13
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams smile after Osaka defeated in the tennis legend in the U.S. Open in a controversial match Getty

First published on July 9, 2019 / 9:01 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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