Serena Williams is currently playing in Wimbledon and made it to the semifinals after gutting out a 2-1 match against fellow American Alison Riske. While the tennis world is still very much tuned in to Williams’ exploits on the court, an essay she penned as part of Harper’s Bazaar August cover story shares details of her controversial 2018 U.S. Open match against Naomi Osaka.
From Harper’s Bazaar:
“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.”
When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face. “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,” she said graciously. “No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”
It was in this moment that I realized the real reason the US Open was so hard for me to get over: It wasn’t because of the backlash I faced but rather because of what had happened to the young woman who deserved so much more in her special moment. I had felt that it was my fault and that I should have kept my mouth closed. But now, seeing her text putting everything in perspective, I realized she was right.
The entire piece actually dives deep into the perception that women athletes face far more scrutiny than their male counterparts when it comes to being expressive on the court, the field, and in life period. The entire essay is a worthy read full of self-reflection and humility.
Read the essay in full here.