Serena Williams said she struggled to move past her loss to Naomi Osaka and the surrounding controversy following the 2018 US Open championship match until she sent a text message to the Japanese rising star to apologize for letting the situation take away from her first major title.
Williams engaged in an extended, heated discussion with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after he warned her for getting coaching from the stands, an allegation she fiercely denied. She was first docked a point and then a full game after calling Ramos a "thief."
The greatest player in women's tennis history recounted the experience for Harper's Bazaar, noting the situation continued to weigh heavily on her in the week after the loss:
"Days passed, and I still couldn’t find peace. 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. 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."
Williams, who defeated fellow American Alison Riske in the 2019 Wimbledon quarterfinals Tuesday, proceeded to provide the full message she sent to 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."
She said the reply from her opponent in the US Open final caused her to cry.
"People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can't differentiate between the two," Osaka responded. "No one has stood up for themselves the way you have, and you need to continue trailblazing."
Osaka proceeded to defeat Petra Kvitova for her second straight major title at the 2019 Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Williams said she didn't pick up a tennis racket for a "long while" after the incident. However, she has returned to the court and continues to speak out to help women who find themselves in similar positions in the future, including her own daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.