This is Serena Williams at her most vulnerable — posing without pants in images that weren’t photoshopped and penning a revealing letter.
Serena Williams says she has tried to “better” herself as a person in the wake of her infamous outburst at last year’s US Open after her lengthy essay on the controversy was published on the same day she won two matches at Wimbledon.
The 37-year-old squeezed past Alison Riske in the singles quarter-finals 6-4 4-6 6-3 before backing up to play alongside Andy Murray as the pair won their second round mixed doubles match.
While she was on court, an in-depth piece Williams penned for Harper’s Bazaar addressing every issue surrounding her tumultuous New York final against Naomi Osaka appeared online.
The front over of the magazine generated plenty of buzz, with Williams not afraid to show off some skin in a revealing gold dress.
Making the issue particularly significant is that none of the photos of her have been retouched or photoshopped in any way, with the feature being dubbed “The Naked Truth”.
Williams sent the tennis world into meltdown when she exploded at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, calling him a “thief” for hitting her with code violations and eventually taking a game off her because of her unsavoury conduct. It led to the tennis legend questioning Ramos if he was punishing her because she was a woman.
Williams was initially penalised for receiving help from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who was in her box, and while Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching from the stands, Williams has always refused to acknowledge that is true.
In her essay, Williams spoke about the hurt the entire affair caused her, how she apologised to Osaka and seeing a therapist.
“It wasn’t very easy. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me at that particular tournament in general. It was just important to always try to better yourself in any way that you can,” Williams said about her therapy sessions when asked about them in a press conference today.
Quizzed about the timing of the article’s release and the fact someone posted promotional material for it on her Instagram account while she was playing today, Williams added: “That 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.
“Yeah, I didn’t write that (Instagram post) last night or anything. Obviously someone on my social team put it out during the match.”
Williams’ essay goes into great detail about the emotional rollercoaster after the US Open final — which saw the hometown crowd boo and Osaka cry on stage as she received her first ever grand slam trophy, turning what should have been the best day of her life into a nightmare.
Many criticised Williams for ruining Osaka’s big day but the 23-time major winner said she could not have been happier for the Japanese star. As for herself, it was a very different story.
“I felt defeated and disrespected by a sport that I love — one that I had dedicated my life to and that my family truly changed, not because we were welcomed, but because we wouldn’t stop winning,” Williams wrote.
“Every night, as I would try to go to sleep, unresolved questions ran through my mind in a never-ending loop: How can you take a game away from me in the final of a grand slam? Really, how can you take a game away from anyone at any stage of any tournament?
“If I were a man, would I be in this situation? What makes me so different? Is it because I’m a woman?
“I was hurt — cut deeply. 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.
“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. My heart broke.”
In her article, Williams maintains men are treated differently to women and suggests if a male player had been in her position when opposing an official, the situation would have been laughed off rather than blown into the firestorm hers was.
She also says after undergoing therapy, she realised the only way to move on and get closure from the ugly saga was to apologise — something she hadn’t done in the immediate aftermath of the most controversial match of the year.
So she texted 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. 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,” Williams’ message read.
“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.’”
After her journey of self-reflection, Williams concluded she was right to respond the way she did at Flushing Meadows and while she had considered she was to blame for Osaka’s bittersweet triumph, that doubt disappeared when her rival told 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 okay with. It’s shameful that our society penalises women just for being themselves.”
Having a daughter — who is a couple of months shy of turning two — changed Williams’ perspective on life and she said after the US Open her child was her inspiration for fighting for what she believed was right. It was a sentiment echoed at the end of her essay as Williams vowed to continue rising up.