Serena Williams Pens Apology Letter for US Open Outburst in Harper’s Bazaar

July 9, 2019

Photo Credit: Victoria Jones – PA Images/Getty Images

Ten months after breaking her tennis racket and calling an umpire a “liar” and a “thief” at the 2018 US Open, Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is apologizing for her actions in an open letter published in Harper’s Bazaar.

Showing off her best self, Serena posed for photographer Alexi Lubomirski as she prepared to detail the events that took place at the annual tennis competition on September 8, 2018.

Williams opens the very “candid” letter by recounting the moment she won her first Grand Slam at 17 years old.

“At 17, I won my first Grand Slam, and I knew I had more in me. In fact, I was so sure that when I packed up my life and left my dad’s house to move in with my sister Venus, I told him he could keep my US Open trophy. Don’t worry, I assured him. I would get another one for my house. Now that was confidence. I went on to win the US Open not one or two but six times.”

She continues, “Since that fateful victory in 1999, I’ve won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 39 Grand Slam titles in all, and countless gold medals. I have been asked what keeps me motivated to continue playing tennis. To me, the answer is simple: I love the sport.”

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I’m proud to use my voice and words to share an essay on the raw feelings I had during a match we may all remember. The essay and unretouched photos are live on @harpersbazaarus. Link in bio. Photographed by @alexilubomirski Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen Styling by @menamorado

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As Serena breaks down the day that led to her name becoming headline news, she gives a play-by-play explanation of what happened and why she reacted the ways she did.

“It’s the final of the US Open, and I’m competing to win my 24th Grand Slam against Naomi Osaka. It’s the beginning of the second set, and the umpire thinks he spots my coach signaling me from the stands. He issues a violation—a warning. I approach him and emphatically state the truth: that I wasn’t looking at my coach. “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,” I said. I walk back to the court and lose the next point. I smash my racket in frustration; he issues another violation and gives a point to my opponent. I feel passionately compelled to stand up for myself. I call him a thief; I again demand an apology. I tell him he is penalizing me for being a woman. He responds by issuing a third violation and takes a game from me. In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title. I could not have been happier for her. As for me, I felt defeated and disrespected by a sport that I love—“

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“I’ve been called every name in the book. I’ve been shamed because of my body shape. I’ve been paid unequally because of my sex. I’ve been penalized a game in the final of a Major because I expressed my opinion or grunted too loudly…And these are only the things that are seen by the public. In short, it’s never been easy. But then I think of the next girl who is going to come along who looks like me, and I hope, ‘Maybe, just maybe, my voice will help her.’” @SerenaWilliams goes unretouched on our August 2019 issue and gets candid in a personal essay on Link in bio Photography by @alexilubomirski Styling by @menamorado Hair by @vernonfrancois Makeup by @tyronmachhausen @maybelline #SerenaWilliams wears @ralphlauren, @bulgariofficial and @louboutinworld

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The tennis star goes on the share the questions that plagued her after the match like “How can you take a game away from me in the final of a Grand Slam?” and “How can you take a game away from anyone at any stage of any tournament?”, and why she’s been adamant about speaking up for herself (and female athletes).

Read her full letter here.