Williams explained how she felt during and after the controversial match in a first-hand piece for Harpers Bazaar.

By Emily Caron
July 09, 2019

Serena Williams detailed a first-hand account of her controversial Finals match during the 2018 U.S. Open in which she faced rising star and eventual champion–Naomi Osaka. Williams was awarded three penalties and lost the match, but the controversy surrounding the calls and her responses overshadowed the actual outcome, which marked Osaka's first Grand Slam title.

Frustrated by both the calls and the outcome, Williams was also vocal about how her status as a woman in the sport impacted the calls made. The 23-time Grand Slam champ explained the incident, her reactions and the aftermath in a first-hand account for Harpers Bazaar.

Read Williams's account of the incident below:

"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—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 said she tried to let the incident go but said the hurt "was different." Not only did it impact the outcome for her, but it altered the perception of Osaka's first ever Grand Slam win, which also bothered Williams. Osaka won the match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

"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," the 23-time Grand Slam champ continued. "I thought back to my first Grand Slam. It’s the one you remember best; it’s supposed to be the most special. 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. I started to think again, “What could I have done better? Was I wrong to stand up? Why is it that when women get passionate, they’re labeled emotional, crazy, and irrational, but when men do they’re seen as passionate and strong?”

The 37-year-old star said she apologized to Osaka a second time after working through her emotions surrounding the event. According to Williams, Osaka was gracious in her response and said she understood that Williams felt she was standing up for herself. Osaka told her to "keep trailblazing."

Williams went on to discuss how differently she perceives men's frustrations with a call on the court to be received by umpires, saying that she doesn't want to avoid a penalty but asking for equal treatment. Williams has not played in a Grand Slam final since her U.S. Open loss to Osaka. She is currently playing at Wimbledon, where she advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over fellow American Alison Riske.

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