Serena Williams' hopes of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title ended on Thursday as she suffered a straight-sets loss to World No. 3 Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals.
Williams was defeated 3-6, 4-6 by Osaka, her third loss in four career meetings against the Japanese. And in the press conference after this latest heartbreak, the American struggled to control her emotions and eventually broke into tears.
Williams' tally of 23 Grand Slam singles titles is an Open Era record, and she is just one short of equaling the all-time record held by Australia's Margaret Court. Since her last Major triumph at the 2017 Australian Open, the 39-year-old has reached four Slam finals, but the 24th title has eluded her.
Serena Williams appeared visibly distressed during her press conference when speaking about her loss, claiming she made too many unforced errors on the day.
"I wouldn't say I was nervous, no," Williams said. "The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today. Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up 5-love. I just made so many errors. I felt like I was hitting well. I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple of games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities."
When questioned further on the subject, Williams stated, "I don't know. I'm done," as she broke down in tears and left the press conference.
"So honored to be able to play in front of you all... only wish I could have done better for you" - Serena Williams' heartfelt post to Melbourne fans after loss
After exiting her press conference, Serena Williams posted a message on her Instagram account in which she said she was honored to play in front of the Melbourne crowd.
Fans were present in the stands on Thursday to watch the women's semifinals, after being away for the past few days amid Melbourne's five-day snap lockdown. And Williams expressed her heartfelt love and appreciation for her fans in the post.
"Today was not ideal outcome or performance but it happens... I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all," Serena Williams wrote. "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."