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Serena Williams poses nearly nude in unretouched photos for Harper's Bazaar

Williams also wrote a first-person story in the magazine about last year's U.S. Open controversy and her emotional exchange of messages with Naomi Osaka.
/ Source: TODAY

Serena Williams is showing what a powerful woman looks like without any help from Photoshop.

The tennis superstar appears in an unretouched photo on the cover of the August issue of Harper's Bazaar as part of the magazine's "real beauty" issue.

Serena Williams/Harper's BAZAAR's August Cover
Serena Williams shines in an unretouched photo on the cover of the August issue of Harper's Bazaar. Alexi Lubomirski / Harper's Bazaar

The 23-time Grand Slam champion didn't bother with any filters or Photoshop for her shoot, including the cover photo of her wearing a gold Stella McCartney gown with a Tiffany necklace and earrings.

Williams is keeping it real for her fans three years after she made some upset by posting a Photoshopped picture of herself on Instagram. She ended up deleting the original and posting a non-edited version.

She also shines in a gold Ralph Lauren cape in a shot accompanying a first-person essay in the magazine in which she writes about her controversial loss to Naomi Osaka in last year's U.S. Open final.

Serena Williams/Harper's BAZAAR's August Cover
Serena Williams appears in a Ralph Lauren cape (and little else) inside the August issue of Harper's Bazaar. Alexi Lubomirski / Harper's Bazaar

During the match, Williams called umpire Carlos Ramos a "thief" and a "liar" while accusing him of sexism after he penalized her for receiving coaching signals from the stands and then again for smashing her racket on the ground and breaking it.

She was given a game penalty for verbal abuse before Osaka went on to win the match 6-2, 6-4 to capture her first Grand Slam title. The controversy with Williams, whom Osaka grew up idolizing, overshadowed her victory as fans booed during the trophy celebration.

"I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match," Osaka told TODAY at the time. "I don’t know, I just felt very emotional, and I felt like I had to apologize."

Anguish over the match led Williams to see a therapist and ultimately write an apologetic email to Osaka, she wrote in Harper's Bazaar.

"Finally I realized that there was only one way for me to move forward,'' she wrote. "It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most.

"Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams. As I said on the court, I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena."

Serena Williams/Harper's BAZAAR's August Cover
Williams writes about last year's U.S. Open controversy and how she reached out to champion Naomi Osaka afterward. Alexi Lubomirski / Harper's Bazaar

Williams then grew emotional after getting a text message reply from Osaka.

"When Naomi’s response came through, tears rolled down my face,'' Williams wrote. "People can misunderstand anger for strength because they can’t differentiate between the two,' (Osaka) said graciously. 'No one has stood up for themselves the way you have and you need to continue trailblazing.'

"It was in this moment that I realized the real reason the U.S. Open was so hard for me to get over: It wasn’t because of the backlash I faced but rather because of what had happened to the young woman who deserved so much more in her special moment. I had felt that it was my fault and that I should have kept my mouth closed. But now, seeing her text putting everything in perspective, I realized she was right."

The tennis legend had been haunted by her controversy taking the spotlight away from Osaka's accomplishment.

"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,'' she 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?'''

Despite the backlash she faced after the U.S. Open, Williams has no intention of staying quiet the next time she feels she has been wronged.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve felt a need to voice my opinion and be heard,'' she wrote. "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."