Serena Williams bid a tearful farewell to the Australian Open amid questions about whether she may have played at the tournament for the last time.
Williams gave the crowd inside the Rod Laver Arena a long wave goodbye with her hand on her heart following her 6-3 6-4 semi-final defeat by Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Thursday.
The gesture prompted speculation about whether the 39-year-old would ever be back competing at Melbourne Park, where she has won the title seven times.
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Williams’ record bid ended with another near-miss, having also reached the finals of four other Grand Slams since her last major crown at the Australian Open in 2017.
In her post-match press conference, Williams broke down when asked whether she had just had a bad day at the office.
She responded: “I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone. So…”
Williams then became tearful during the next question, a relatively mundane enquiry about her unforced errors during the match, and said: “I don’t know. I’m done,” before leaving the room.
A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams)
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Williams had once again come up short in her 10th attempt to move level with Margaret Court’s haul of 24 major titles.
She had come to Melbourne Park seeking a 24th Grand Slam title but it was her 24th unforced error that ended her campaign against Osaka, who also beat her in the 2018 US Open final.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous, no. The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today. Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love. I just made so many errors,” said Williams.
“I had a lot of forehand unforced errors. It was a big error day for me today.”
She added: “I felt like I was hitting well. I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities. Just made too many mistakes there, easy mistakes. Not like I was on the run or anything, they were just easy, easy mistakes.”
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