Serena Williams‘ professional tennis career has been going strong for over 25 years and even though we know that the end must be near since she’s 39 years old now, we still feel like her retirement is in the distant future. One thing we know now, the 23-time Grand Slam champion will not prepare us for the day she leaves the sport, we won’t have a prior notice.
Feeling sad and frustrated for missing another shot at record-tying 24th major title, Williams broke down in tears and abruptly left the press conference that followed her semifinal defeat to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open.
After the match, Williams revealed that if she decided to quit tennis, she would not let anyone know about it. Walking off the court after today’s loss at Melbourne Park, Williams put her hand on her heart to a standing ovation and some people understood that she was almost saying farewell. Explaining the hand on her chest gesture, Williams said it was her showing respect for the amazing crowd in Australia, but when asked whether it was her farewell, the American gave an ambiguous answer:
If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.
We can speculate whether Serena felt like she was saying goodbye to Australia, but her answer does suggest that she will not tell us in advance when she decides to hang up her racquet.
What speaks in favor of this being the closing stage of Williams’ career is the fact that she was able to answer only one more question before tears flowed down her face. When asked what caused her inability to control unforced errors and whether it was just a bad day in the office, Williams was overwhelmed with emotions and left the room, saying:
I don’t know. I’m done.
Afterwards, Williams penned an emotional message on Instagram:
Melbourne and my Australian fans: Today was not ideal outcome or performance but it happens… 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.