Serena Williams apologized to Naomi Osaka about their controversial U.S. Open final match.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion created a storm after her protests during the U.S. Open final match, which overshadowed Osaka’s title win.

Williams grew distant from the sport following the incident. Williams took time for reflection and sought professional help to find the reason why she was bothered for so long.

The tennis player felt guilty for robbing Osaka a chance to celebrate her maiden title win.

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She came to realize that she could only move forward if she apologized to the Japanese player.

Williams wrote a letter to apologize about the unfortunate events to Osaka, and she responded back with a beautiful message. She recalled, “When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face. People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two.”

She also recalled what Osaka said in her response, “‘No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.'”

She realized that it was leaving Osaka teary-eyed amidst the commotion that bothered her, not the backlash.

Osaka’s response to Williams helped her realize that women face the same issue in every job. “This incident – though excruciating for us to endure – exemplified how thousands of women in every area of the workforce are treated every day,” Williams said.

“We are not allowed to have emotions, we are not allowed to be passionate. We are told to sit down and be quiet, which frankly is just not something I’m okay with. It’s shameful that our society penalizes women just for being themselves,” Williams said.

In the 2018 U.S. Open, Osaka beat Williams. Williams later accused umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism during her news conference. Ramos handed Williams three violations in the second set – the first a warning regarding coaching, the second a point penalty for breaking her racket, and the third a game penalty for verbal abuse after she called him a “thief.”