By Ken Reed
Serena Williams has apologized. Finally.
Williams’ boorish behavior and poor sportsmanship in last year’s U.S. Open final overshadowed what should have been a grand moment for a young star from Japan named Naomi Osaka.
Osaka won the match, resulting in her first major tournament victory, but not before Williams embarrassed herself and the game of tennis with a series of outbursts that earned her several code violations.
The childish antics of Williams took away a lot of the joy from winning for Osaka, who is nearly 17 years younger than Williams. After the match, instead of celebrating the biggest win of her career, Osaka sat on her chair with a towel over her head, filled with conflicting emotions.
It was shameful for Serena to put her in this unfortunate — but easily preventable — spot.
Osaka carried herself with great poise, composure and dignity, during and after this match, while Serena acted like a spoiled brat and bully. To win, not only did Osaka have to overcome Williams’ tremendous tennis talent, she had to overcome Serena’s terrible behavior and the unsportsmanlike crowd response it generated.
Well, close to a year, after the ugly incident, Serena says she’s found peace after writing a letter to Osaka apologizing for her behavior in last year’s U.S. Open final and saying she was “truly sorry.”
“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,” Williams said.
“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 responded positively to the note, which brought immediate relief to Williams.
“When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face,” said Williams.
Kudos to Serena for apologizing to Osaka, even if it took her a long time to do it. I’m sure it brought some relief and closure to Osaka as well as Serena.
Certainly, it would have been better if the apology had come much sooner. But, better late than never.
In a side note: It appears Serena’s peaceful mindset didn’t last too long as she was fined $10,000 by the All England Club for damaging a court with her raquet during practice before the start of this year’s Wimbledon tournament.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report