An emotional Serena Williams left her news conference in tears after facing questions about her future following defeat in the Australian Open semi-final.
The American tennis star, 39, once again came up short in her 11th attempt to move level with Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, and it is now a year-and-a-half since she made a final.
Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka, the champion in 2019, overcame a nervous start in front of a limited crowd at the Rod Laver Arena to win 6-3 6-4.
Following the match, Williams gave the crowd a long wave goodbye with her hand on her heart – prompting speculation about whether she will ever return to Melbourne Park where she has won the title seven times.
In her post-match press conference, Williams, who had never previously lost a semi-final in Melbourne, said she was unsure about her future.
She said: “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 shaking her head said: “I don’t know. I’m done,” before abruptly leaving the room.
From 2-0 down Osaka won eight out of the next nine games before ultimately wrapping up victory in an hour and 15 minutes.
Osaka, 23, said on court: “I was really nervous and scared in the beginning but I eased my way into it.
“It was about having fun and it was the first day having a crowd for a while. It’s an honour to play her and I didn’t want to go out really bad so I just tried my best.
“I was a little kid watching her play so coming up against her on the court for me is a dream.”
Osaka will meet first-time Grand Slam finalist Jennifer Brady on Saturday.