Serena Williams came within reach of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, playing well enough Thursday (Feb. 18, 2021) to get to the closing days of a major tournament. Yet, Williams couldn’t quite get it done, as she was defeated 6-3, 6-4 by Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals.
Osaka, who also beat Williams in the chaotic 2018 US Open final, reached her fourth major title match and stretched her winning streak to 20 matches by claiming the last eight points.
“I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka, 23, said about Williams, 39, “and just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream.”
Of the match, The Atlantic reported:
Every gesture by a champion is analyzed exhaustively. It was no different when Williams left the court after her loss to Osaka, waving to the crowd and pausing and putting her hand to her heart, a touching moment. The ESPN commentators discussed the gesture and if it might have been her final time at the event. “It had the feeling of more than just, ‘thank you for coming out today,’ didn’t it?” said Chris Fowler.
Williams, in an emotional post-match news conference, noted that, “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.” She smiled when she made the comment.
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.