American sporting icon Venus Williams has broken her silence after the Met Gala bathroom photo which stunned tennis fans.
American legend Venus Williams has broken her silence following the Met Gala, saying she and her sister both “respect and love” rival tennis star Maria Sharapova.
Tennis fans were shocked to see Sharapova and the two Americans together at the exclusive event in New York, with the Russian phenom posting a photo of the trio to her Instagram.
All three were smiling ear-to-ear and appeared to be having a great time.
Venus shared the snap on her social media channels, as did Serena — which came as a shock considering her icy rivalry with Sharapova.
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But they weren’t just putting on some fake smiles for the camera, as another picture revealed they were in the bathroom together at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Brazilian pop star Anitta and American rapper Saweetie posed for a photo, and eagle-eyed sleuths on social media noticed in the mirror’s reflection, Serena could be seen standing next to Sharapova and smiling.
Tennis fans wondered if the younger Williams sister and Sharapova had finally put their famous feud behind them.
Writer Nikhila Makker was left gobsmacked by the viral image, posting to Twitter: “Is this real life?”.
Journalist Max Gao said: “I feel like I’m hallucinating. What in the world?!”
Two days after the event, Venus addressed the drama in a clip uploaded to her Instagram story.
“First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before,” the 41-year-old explained.
“We were like, ‘Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.’
“And we saw her, and we both told her separately, ‘Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on tour.’
“We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo.
“So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria.”
Serena attended the Met Gala with her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, while Sharapova was there alongside fiance Alexander Gilkes.
This year’s theme for the Met Gala is In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. Williams wore a star-spangled silver bodysuit and a floor-length pink cape, while Sharapova wore a gold gown.
Sharapova, who won five grand slam titles, has been open about not wanting to make friends with other players during her career as she sought to maintain a competitive edge.
But without doubt her fiercest rivalry was with Serena, who won 20 of the pair’s 22 matches — including three major finals — and enjoyed a 16-year, 19-match winning streak.
The rivalry started when a 17-year-old Sharapova beat Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon decider. In her 2017 autobiography, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Sharapova mentioned Williams by name more than 100 times, while emphasising the pair were “not friends”.
“What I heard when I came into the locker room was Serena Williams bawling,” she wrote about the aftermath of her Wimbledon triumph.
“Guttural sobs. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there.
“I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds … I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment.
“But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. She’s never forgiven me for it.”
The 23-time grand slam champion, was unable to compete at the US Open due to a serious hamstring injury she suffered at Wimbledon.