The tennis star features on one of four covers for the December issue of the United States men's magazine, alongside actors Michael B Jordan, Henry Golding and Jonah Hill. Williams' cover seemed to spark controversy over a particular design element on the front.
She also wrote a heartfelt letter to her mother previous year after becoming a mother, briefly touching on accusations over drug use.
Many on social media questioned why the word "woman" was in quotes on the cover.
Serena Williams put together an excellent year in 2018, coming back from a life-threatening childbirth to reach two Grand Slam finals and continue to inspire the world.
At the bottom of the page, it says the handwriting is by designer Virgil Abloh, who has designed Nike outfits for Williams - and includes quotation marks in his work.
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Mick Rouse, who per his Twitter bio is a GQ research manager, noted the word was handwritten by USA fashion designer Virgil Abloh.
One Twitter user said: "Someone didn't think that through very well".
The magazine noted that Williams had "a remarkable year" and in an article, she shared "what it's like to be a black woman in America in 2018".
The social media buzz was off base, considering the magazine tried to explain it beforehand, but it taps into a hot button issue not only in today's society but in Williams' career. It has been said I don't belong in Women's sports - that I belong in Men's - because I look stronger than many other women do.
However the word woman is written with quotes around it, and that hasn't sat well with fans. "(No, I just work hard and I was born with this baddass body and proud of it)".
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