Sports | February 18, 2021 11:38 am

Did Serena Williams Just Play Her Last Match at the Australian Open?

Williams, 39, left her post-match news conference in tears after losing to Naomi Osaka

Did Serena Williams Just Play Her Last Match at the Australian Open?
Serena Williams plays a semifinal match against Naomi Osaka.
Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

After losing 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, 39-year-old Serena Williams received a standing ovation as she walked off the court in Melbourne for what could be the last time.

Williams had her hand on her heart as she walked off the court and was asked if that was her way of saying farewell in her post-match news conference. Williams responded, “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

Seemingly distraught after her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with the loss to Osaka, Williams was unable to make it all the way through the press conference, exiting in tears after she was asked about the 24 errors she struck across the two semifinal sets. “I don’t know … I’m done,” she said before leaving the podium.

“Melbourne and my Australian fans – Today was not an ideal outcome or performance but it happens … I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all,” Williams wrote on Instagram afterward. “Your support – your cheers, I only wish I could have done better for you today. I am forever in debt and grateful to each and every single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you.”

That certainly reads like a goodbye message, which is why many have started to theorize that Williams, who hasn’t won a Grand Slam since she defeated her sister Venus in the final at the 2017 Australian Open, may be close to putting down her racquet for good.

“Grand Slam No. 24 remains tantalizing. But if the returns are diminishing and the sacrifice no longer seems worthwhile, you can understand why Thursday felt a little bit like goodbye,” Dan Wolken writes for USA Today. “Taking her at her word, Williams will never say out loud that 2021 is a farewell tour. But the way she reacted to this loss, let’s just say it’s time to savor every moment of seeing her on the court.” 

If she does choose to step back onto it, Williams will get her next shot at winning a Grand Slam at the French Open in May.

“Every time I play her, I feel like it’s something I’ll definitely remember a lot,” Osaka said after beating her idol. “I want her to play forever.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear that she won’t, no matter what Osaka or anyone else — including Williams — wants. So savor their rivalry, and the final stanzas of one of the most decorated and dominant careers in the history of professional spors, while you still can.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.