Serena Williams choked up and cut short the post-match press-conference when asked about her error-prone performance against Naomi Osaka in the semifinal of the Australian Open.
Williams, who has been chasing her record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title for almost three years now, went down 3-6, 4-6 to World No 3 Osaka on Thursday.
The 39-year-old, who is one Grand Slam short of Margaret Court’s record, walked off Rod Laver Arena to a standing ovation, pausing for a moment to put her hand on her heart and wave to the crowd.
“The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see,” Williams, sporting a “Queen” necklace, told reporters.
When asked if her exit from the court was a final farewell to the Australian Open, she said with a smile: “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
Congratulations on a great fortnight, @serenawilliams.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
But the smile soon faded, and she choked up when asked if her defeat to Osaka was just a “bad day at the office.”
“I don’t know. I’m done,” she said, leaving the room in tears.
Williams had looked her sharpest in years at the tournament but 24 unforced errors cost her against Osaka, who also beat her in the 2018 US Open final.
The American won her last major title in 2017 at Melbourne Park before taking a break from the sport to give birth to daughter Alexis Olympia, and has lost four major finals since returning to tennis in 2018.
Osaka will take on first-time finalist Jennifer Brady in Saturday’s summit clash. Brady ensured there would be an American in the Australian Open final by downing Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the second semifinal.