Motherhood has not stopped Serena Williams from pursuing her goals. Her daughter is the reason why she’s back and stronger than ever. The tennis champ wrote an essay for Harper’s Bazaar August issue and appears as fierce as ever on the cover. The most incredible part about that photo spread, including the cover, is that Williams is entirely untouched.
“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,” Williams said on Instagram.
Williams spoke candidly about that intense moment at last year’s 2018 US Open final against Naomi Osaka, in which she spoke out against the umpire after he ruled a couple of violations against her. Some people called the exchange a meltdown on her part. Williams, however, reflected on this moment as a challenging one where she felt she had to be her own advocate.
“I feel passionately compelled to stand up for myself,” she writes. “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.”
The sexism Williams faced started to deeply affect her. She also felt tremendous guilt for how the situation impacted Naomi Osaka and took the shine away from her win.
“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,” Williams wrote. “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?”’
Williams eventually had to seek therapy to help her heal from the situation and reached out to Osaka to apologize.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Osaka’s response to William’s text was exactly what she needed to hear. “People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,” she wrote back to Williams. “No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.”
The new mother also writes how her child keeps her encouraged to continue to play the sport that made her a star, while also not backing down from speaking her mind about injustices. It brought so much into perspective for the constant sexism women experience every day, especially in workspaces.
“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.” She adds, “Ultimately, my daughter is the reason I use my voice, the reason I picked up a racket again. Love breathes life and newfound perspective into people. It’s not about quitting when someone presents a challenge; it’s about getting up when you are down, dusting yourself off and asking, ‘Is that the best you got?’ Because I have God with me, and I can take whatever comes my way.”
We admire her grace and dedication. Click here to read her entire essay.