Serena Williams wrote a brutally honest open letter for the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar. The tennis legend opened up about her reign as the greatest tennis player of all time and her devastating loss to Naomi Osaka. The letter detailed feelings she’s felt throughout her illustrious career. Those emotions ranged from pride to guilt. Williams also discussed needing therapy after her 2018 loss to Naomi Osaka at the US Open.
Although Williams’ career is unmatched regarding championships, her ascension to icon status wasn’t a smooth ride. In the past, media and tennis officials demonized, body-shamed and targeted her because she’s an unapologetic Black woman. Williams has been subjected to insurmountable bias because she refused to fold under the pressure of being the greatest athlete in the world in a predominantly white sport.
She eloquently penned words in Harper’s Bazaar that many Black women have felt at some point in their lives — present company included. Williams’ vulnerability was something unseen outside of Black spaces. Black women, especially, are expected to exude strength at all times.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt a need to voice my opinion and be heard. Some may not like it, and to be honest, that’s their prerogative. I respect it. Growing up as the youngest of five girls, I learned that I had to fight for everything I wanted. And I won’t ever stop raising my voice against injustice.”
Williams, admittedly, blew up at one situation which marred the beauty of another. Many people heard about the $17,000 fine she paid for becoming angry when she felt she was mistreated at the US Open in 2018.
Her loss at the US Open to Osaka did not represent putting an old horse out to pasture but rather a passing of the torch to the next generation. Tennis isn’t a typical “Black sport,” but Black excellence commanded the game for almost two decades and still does today.
A meaningful and significant moment between Williams and Osaka was lost due to inequities in the tennis world. Unfortunately, Williams carried the burden of all those inequities on that fateful day. A day she replayed in her mind continuously. The injustices committed against Williams made her never want to pick up a tennis racket again. So much to the point, she needed therapy.
“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 racket,” Williams, 37, wrote in the letter. “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.”
She lamented over the chance to relive that moment again with Osaka with no drama. She wished for a do-over that would have allowed the G.O.A.T. of tennis to lovingly and gracefully escort the young, new champion to her throne while Osaka gave her the reverence she deserved.
Williams poured those emotions into a letter via Harper’s Bazaar that Osaka read. The young champion’s response brought the legend to tears.
In a world where Black women face obstacles over and over again, the ability to maintain grace under fire is paramount for us. On those rare occasions, when we lose our heads even if it’s justified, we must also hold ourselves accountable and make amends when we hurt others.