Serena Williams wasn't able to overcome a phenomenal Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-final, but her farewell to the crowd had the tennis world questioning whether it would be her last match on Rod Laver Arena.
Williams was unable to capitalise on a nervous start from Osaka as the World No.2 blasted her way past the American and into the Australian Open final.
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But it was Williams' farewell to the crowd, who returned after a five-day lockdown in Melbourne, which had the tennis world talking.
The 39-year-old stopped before she left court and took a moment to soak in the atmosphere.
She then waved to the crowd before proceeding down the tunnel.
Some fans immediately pointed out it was a 'strange' goodbye and could have signalled her last match out on Rod Laver Arena.
— Sherry Williams (@sherryw366) February 18, 2021
Wonder if the Australian Open will ever see Serena Williams again as a player?
That was a strange goodbye to the crowd...... #ausopen
— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) February 18, 2021
This reaction doesn't scream next year to me. I will be devastated 😭
— Darius K (@clinton_darius) February 18, 2021
Did Serena Williams just thank the Australian Open crowd for the last time???
— Princess Elle (@noelleharmony) February 18, 2021
— Ariel Gonzalez (@Guyzer2413) February 18, 2021
Serena Williams' salute to the crowd felt a bit final, if you get my drift.
— Julian McKenzie (@jkamckenzie) February 18, 2021
"That might be the last time we see her here at Rod Laver" says Rennae Stubbs on ESPN of the tone and feel of Serena Williams as she waves to the crowd as she walks off the court after losing to Naomi Osaka.
— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) February 18, 2021
However, many were quick to dismiss the reaction as anything but Williams thanking the crowd after she enjoyed strong support during the titanic clash against Osaka.
The commentators be REACHING. They are saying @serenawilliams is retiring because she took a moment to take in the crowd. Maybe she was appreciative of the fact that there was a crowd. We have been in a PANDEMIC. #AusOpen #AustralianOpen2021
— Matthew J Harris (@MatthewJHarris7) February 18, 2021
— Lisa Swartz 👱🏻♀️🍷 #FunLisaWineOh (@ls1228) February 18, 2021
To add to the speculation, Williams left her press conference in tears when addressing if it was her farewell.
"I don't know, if I ever say farewell, I won't tell anyone," she said before walking off.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) February 18, 2021
Naomi Osaka too strong for Serena Williams
After a nervous start from Osaka she put aside the nerves and stormed back to take the first set 6-3 in barnstorming fashion.
Osaka's groundstrokes proved too much for Williams who made a few uncharacteristic mistakes.
Williams attempted to get back into the second set after letting out a show of frustration when she yelled: "Make a shot".
However, Osaka proved to clinical to win 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open final.
Osaka will attempt to add to her Australian Open title tally when she takes on either Jennifer Brady or Karolina Muchova in the final.
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