Serena Williams was knocked out of the 2021 Australian Open by Naomi Osaka in the semifinals. And Williams' tearful exit from the press conference following her loss led many in the tennis world to wonder whether she will have the motivation to continue playing on.
However, former World No. 1 Mats Wilander believes this is not the end of the road for Serena Williams.
Osaka handed Williams a tough straight-sets loss on Thursday, denying her a chance to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. After the match the American took some time to wave to the crowd, prompting speculation that she was uncertain about returning to Australia next year.
Williams then broke down in tears at her press conference later, as she struggled with her emotions while speaking about her loss. But Wilander opined that the 39-year-old's tears were probably out of disappointment with her performance against Osaka, especially since she had got off to a good start in the first set.
"I think we see those tears because I think she was disappointed in the way she played," Wilander said. "No, it's not the end for Serena Williams."
"I think she had really high hopes, she had a really good start," the Swede added. "If she got to 3-0, it could have been 4-0, then 5-0. She was a bit unlucky and I think she has taken a step in the right direction."
For Serena Williams this is a bigger loss because she is moving better, playing better, & still not really close to Naomi Osaka: Mats Wilander
Mats Wilander also suggested the loss may have affected Serena Williams more because it showed there was a big gulf between her level and Naomi Osaka's. Williams has improved her physical fitness and is moving much better than she has in recent times, as her coach asserted too, but was still unable to overcome her 23-year-old rival.
Williams is now 1-3 lifetime against Naomi Osaka, with two of those losses coming in the latter rounds of Grand Slams.
"For her this is a bigger loss, because she is moving better, she is playing better and she is still not really close to Osaka," Wilander said. 'I feel that’s where the emotions start – she's probably thinking, what do I need to do now?"