Serena Williams recalls US Open meltdown in essay, thought she was ‘doing the right thing’

July 9, 2019

Serena Williams penned an essay about her outburst at the 2018 U.S. Open, in which she accused the chair umpire of sexism after being penalized on three separate occasions.

Williams was largely lambasted over the incident and it overshadowed 20-year-old Naomi Osaka’s first Grand Slam victory. In the August issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Williams goes over her feelings about how she acted in the moment but still doesn’t think she was wrong in how she acted.


“I couldn’t find peace,” Williams wrote. “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.”

She said she started to write a letter to Osaka.

Serena Williams of the United States argues with referee Brian Earley during her Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

“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.

“‘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.’”


Williams said Osaka’s response left her in tears.

“People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,” Osaka wrote. “No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”

Williams lost to Osaka, 6-2, 6-4 in the U.S. Open final last year.

She received her first violation from umpire Carlos Ramos, who ruled that Williams received coaching earlier in the set; she told him she’d “rather lose” than cheat.

She was given a second violation for smashing her racquet and again yelled at the chair umpire who had given her the first warning. Her third violation came after she called the umpire a “thief,” leading to the automatic loss of a game.

The umpire instantly awarded a game to Osaka, citing a “verbal abuse call” against Williams. It was at this point that Williams sought out the referee and argued that the harsh call had been made because of her gender.

“Do you know how many other men do things that are much worse than that? This is not fair. There’s a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things, and because they are men, that doesn’t happen to them,” she said to the referee.

“There are men out here that do a lot worse but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right.”


Williams stood by her performance at the post-match news conference, saying: “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things and I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality.”

Fox News’ Paulina Dedai contributed to this report.