Serena Williams Leaves Press Conference in Tears After Loss to Naomi Osaka: 'I'm Done'

Serena Williams was overwhelmed by emotions and left her press conference in tears after losing in straight sets to Naomi Osaka in the semi-final of the Australian Open on Thursday morning.

The loss to Osaka prolongs Williams quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at least until the French Open later this year. The 39-year-old secured her 23rd Grand Slam title—the most of any player in the Open era and one behind Margaret Court's all-time record—when she won the Australian Open while pregnant in 2017, but has since lost in two major semifinals and four major finals.

The second of those two semifinal losses appeared to take a heavy emotional toll on Williams, who struggled to articulate her feelings in a fleeting post-match press conference appearance.

"I don't know ... I'm done," she replied when asked to explain what caused her to make so many mistakes against Osaka—Williams struck 24 unforced errors and only 12 winners.

The 39-year-old then choked back the tears and swiftly left the news conference.

After her semifinal loss to Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams leaves the pressroom in tears.#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/g95Fva006O

— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) February 18, 2021

Williams left the court holding her hand on her heart and was treated to a standing ovation by fans inside the Rod Laver Arena.

When it was put to her that the gesture and the reception could be interpreted as a farewell, Williams was non-committal.

"I don't know. The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see," she explained.

"If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

The 23-time Grand Slam winner did not return to finish the press conference, but subsequently took to social media to address her fans and thank them for their support.

"Today was not ideal outcome or performance but it happens," Williams wrote in an Instagram post.

"I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all. 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 everyone single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you."

The semifinal against Osaka was the first time Williams had reached the last four at Melbourne Park since winning the Australian Open four years ago. The 39-year-old lost 6-2, 6-4 to Osaka in the U.S. Open final in 2018, just months after losing 6-3, 6-3 to Angelique Kerber in the Wimbledon final.

A year later, Williams again reached the finals of both majors, losing 6-2, 6-2 to Simona Halep at Wimbledon and 6-3, 7-5 to Bianca Andreescu at the U.S. Open.

Her bid for a third straight final at Flushing Meadows came to an end last year, when she lost in three sets to Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals.

Following the semi-final on Thursday, Osaka paid tribute to Williams, who is 16 years her senior.

"I don't know if there's any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play. And just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream," she said.

The world No. 3 can add a fourth major title to her resume on Saturday when she will face Jennifer Brady in the final.

The American will make her maiden appearance in a major final, while Osaka already has two U.S. Open titles and an Australian Open crown under her belt.

"Everyone's just really excited whenever they play their first final, but they're also really nervous, but they're also really nervous," she said of Brady, the No. 22 seed.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams
Japan's Naomi Osaka (L) gives a hug to Serena Williams of the US after winning the Australian Open semifinal in straight sets in Melbourne on February 18. William West/AFP/Getty