Serena Williams’ dream of securing her 24th Grand Slam singles title has been cut short once again by Naomi Osaka.
On Thursday, the tennis legend faced off against her 23-year-old rival at the Australian Open semifinals in Melbourne, and after her loss, she took to Instagram with a message to her devoted fans.
“Melbourne and my Australian fans- Today was not ideal outcome or performance but it happens...” the 39-year-old wrote. “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 every single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you."
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The Australian Open is a special event for Williams, especially after earning her 23rd Grand Slam title there in 2017, while two months pregnant with her now 3-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
This time, following her loss, Williams paused before leaving the court and waved to the crowd in the stands. For a moment, she placed one hand over her heart, as the spectators gave her a standing ovation.
One commentator noted, "That might be the last time we see her here."
At a press conference following the match, a reporter mentioned the scene and asked the tennis great if she might be saying goodbye for good.
“I don’t know,” Williams said. “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
Moments later, she became emotional when asked if the loss was simply one of those “bad days at the office."
"I don’t know,” she said, fighting back years.
Then she added, "I'm done," and walked out.
But whether her tears were prompted by thoughts of ending her career before reaching that 24th title or simply due to a an emotional defeat, remains unknown. After all, this isn’t the first time Osaka stood between Williams and that record-tying goal.
Back in 2018, Williams lost to Osaka in another emotional defeat at the U.S. Open.
And for Osaka, beating Williams meant beating her hero.
“I was a little kid watching play and just to be on the court playing against her, for me is a dream,” she said after Thursday’s victory.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY