Serena Williams Says She 'Absolutely' Wishes She Handled U.S. Open Controversy Differently

"I have to tell myself, because of my daughter, that I should be able to have any emotion that any man can have," said the tennis star

Serena Williams says she “absolutely” wishes she handled last fall’s U.S. Open controversy differently — but she doesn’t regret the lessons she taught her daughter.

The tennis player, 37, opened up about the heated match in a new cover story for Business of Fashion, published on Tuesday.

The championship match in September between Williams and Naomi Osaka, 21, was marred by a verbal altercation between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who gave the 23-time Grand Slam champion three separate on-court violations. Williams was penalized for illegal coaching, breaking her racket and verbal abuse, and later suggested that the umpire’s actions were motivated by sexism.

When asked if she regretted how she acted during the situation, Williams responded, “That’s a really loaded question. Do I feel regret for being penalized for something which has never happened in the history of tennis and I didn’t use one single curse word?”

“For me, being a perfectionist and being a professional, it would be impossible not to wish I didn’t handle a lot of situations differently, even that particular situation,” she continued. “So, absolutely. However, I have to tell myself, because of my daughter, that I should be able to have any emotion that any man can have.”

“It’s about teaching our new generation that everyone should be treated the same,” Williams said.

Serena Williams. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty

In a press conference soon after the controversial match, Williams defended herself, saying: “You definitely can’t go back in time, but I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief because I thought he took a game from me. But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things.”

Citing a recent survey, Williams told Business of Fashion, “A lot of women said they feel they have to manage their emotions because they’re called ‘too emotional’ or they’re called something else just because we face different challenges than men face. So, I always think about that. Why do I have to face a different standard than the man?”

The athlete also shared that she doesn’t let criticism affect her anymore.

“It’s part of life, you know,” she continued. “If someone’s not scrutinizing you or talking about you, then you’re not doing something right. If everyone’s praising you and everything’s perfect, then it’s not the real world.”

“People are going to scrutinize you no matter what. They’ll find something wrong with you even if you’re not doing anything wrong. And I don’t let that affect me anymore,” she finished.

During the interview, Williams also opened up about launching her own fashion line last year.

“When I first started, I had to work so hard to get to where I am. Whenever I step on that court, I work really hard. And even in fashion, hearing the word ‘No’ I don’t know how many times,” the tennis star shared.

“That made me want to work hard because I’ve heard the word ‘No’ in tennis before, too,” she added. “That just brings me back to those memories. If it wasn’t for those setbacks, we wouldn’t be where we are with the business right now.”

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