Serena Williams breaks down after questions about tennis future in Australian Open exit interview

Serena Williams of the US reacts after losing to Japan's Naomi Osaka in their women's singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 18, 2021. (Photo by Paul CROCK / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)
Is Serena Williams nearing the end of her career? (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)

Serena Williams is out of the Australian Open, and this exit seemed to hit her harder than others in recent past.

After losing to Naomi Osaka in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, Williams raised eyebrows as she gave the limited Melbourne crowd a clearly emotional goodbye amid a standing ovation, waving and putting her hand on her heart. The gesture was enough to stir speculation that Williams had just played her final match at the Australian Open.

During her post-match news conference, Williams was asked about the gesture and denied it was a final goodbye.

"I don't know. If I had to say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone," Williams said with a laugh.

One question later, after being asked what she felt led to her 24 unforced errors, Williams began an answer, then began to break down.

"I'm done," Williams said through tears, before leaving the interview table.

While Williams dismissed speculation that her farewell to the crowd was a final one, that exit seems likely to continue such speculation for the 39-year-old.

With her loss to Osaka, Williams remains at 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one short of Margaret Court for the all-time record. Williams has been in that position since winning the 2017 Australian Open, losing in four Grand Slam finals since.

This Australian Open seemed to represent one of the last good chances Williams would get to tie Court. She was moving around the court in a way she hadn't in years, and remained dominant with her serve. However, it wasn't enough to get through Osaka, or even force a third set against the woman who beat her in the memorable 2018 US Open final.

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