The 39-year-old tennis great, who had seemed unstoppable in the lead up to the semi-finals, was bested by world No.3, Naomi Osaka in straight sets, going down 3-6, 4-6.
As audiences around the world felt the crushing blow to Williams’ quest to equal Margaret Court’s record number of Grand Slam titles, we watched as the defeated Williams left the court to a standing ovation, taking in the support from the Australian crowd as she left with her hand to her heart. It was a somewhat uncharacteristic departure from a star who, typically once defeated, tends to the leave the court quickly before fronting the cameras and journalists at the post-match press conference. This was different. There was a sense of calm about Williams, a sense of pride in her accomplishments to date, and above all, an unwavering appreciation of those who had supported her journey.
Speaking at a press conference after the match, Williams appeared emotional and chocked up when asked about retirement. She said, “The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see.” She then added, “I don’t know - if I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”After this comment, Williams cut the interviews short and left.
While Williams has continued to field questions regarding speculation about her retirement in recent months, one can only hope she stays in the game, if not for the joy of watching her prowess on court, in the hope that she might just match Court’s record number of wins. The star is still playing an exceptionally high level of tennis, producing consistent results and reaching four Grand Slam finals and a slew of semi- and quarter-finals to boot.
Regardless, Williams is an icon of the sport, a woman regarded as the Greatest of All Time - in both men’s and women’s tennis. Whether or not she clinches a 24th major remains to be seen, but it’s clear her legacy is already cemented and will continue to inspire generations of tennis fans.