Serena Williams’ father texted her about an hour before her wedding and told her he couldn’t walk her down the aisle, the tennis star revealed in Wednesday’s episode of the HBO docuseries “Being Serena.”
“He was in New Orleans, he had a suit, and I know he was really excited,” Williams said in the third episode of the series, per Vogue. “But then he wrote me and said, ‘Serena, I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I just can’t walk you down the aisle. I’m not myself anymore. I’m just too nervous.’”
Williams said she knew the pressure of the crowd would be a lot for her father, Richard Williams, to handle.
“‘Daddy, it’s OK, if you don’t want to come to the wedding at all, that’s OK, too. I’m not going to be upset with you about it, so I don’t want you to be upset about it,’” Williams recalled telling him.
She said she didn’t get stressed about the last-minute change of plans because she understood her father in a way others don’t.
“Maybe a lot of daughters wouldn’t react the same way, but I know the struggles he’s had these last few years,” she said. “His health is better now, but I know he still doesn’t feel like himself, doesn’t feel like he’s perfect.”
“Look, when we first came on the scene, there were a lot of people who didn’t get him,” she added. “I don’t think a lot of them wanted to get him. I don’t think a lot of him could have anyway. Our family knows what we have. We just want each other to be happy. That’s what matters. I don’t think anything could ever change that.”
The episode about Williams’ conversation with her dad aired during a very public debate over whether Meghan Markle’s estranged father would attend her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday. After much back-and-forth, Kensington Palace released a statement Thursday saying he wouldn’t be there.
“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Markle said in the statement. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.”
Williams is on the board of advisers for Oath, HuffPost’s parent company.
The five-part “Being Serena” docuseries chronicles Williams’ journey through pregnancy, marriage and, of course, tennis history. Episodes are available on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on HBO.