At this point, it’s basically indisputable: Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player of all time. With 23 grand slam singles titles under her belt — just one shy of the most ever in women’s tennis — you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s going to win every tournament she enters.
Of course, it’s impossible to win every championship. At the 2018 U.S. Open title game, Williams’ ardent fans watched as she was penalized three times in the final moments of the final set for speaking out to the umpire — and ultimately lost to Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Now, nearly a year later, Williams has finally addressed the outburst that cost her the title in Harper’s Bazaar’s August 2019 cover story, in an essay she penned herself.
“I started to think again, ‘What could I have done better?’ the tennis star wrote. “‘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 ultimately decided, though, that she should apologize — not to the world for speaking up in the moment, but to the then 20-year-old winner, Osaka. “In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title,” wrote Williams. “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.”
Accompanying the story is a beautiful photo shoot where Williams, 37, shows off her unretouched body. Posing in various gold gowns, the pro displays her powerful arms, shoulders and legs, and, in one beautiful shot, even her bare bum, which is partially covered by a gilded, floor-length train.
Scroll through to see the gorgeous photographs and read more of Williams’ empowering thoughts.