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Australian Open: Serena tearful after exit, mum on retirement

Serena Williams stopped to salute fans after losing to Naomi Osaka in a women's singles semifinals match at the 2021 Australian Open on Thursday at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE
Serena Williams stopped to salute fans after losing to Naomi Osaka in a women's singles semifinals match at the 2021 Australian Open on Thursday at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Serena Williams was in tears as she answered questions about her potential retirement in her final news conference for the 2021 Australian Open on Thursday in Melbourne.

Naomi Osaka beat the 23-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets Thursday in a women's singles semifinal.

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Williams received a standing ovation for her effort. She stopped to wave to the fans and also put her hand over her heart as she headed into the locker room at Rod Laver Arena.

Williams later entered her final news conference at the Grand Slam. She first answered questions about her nerves and explained why she struggled during the loss. She then became emotional when she was asked about her post-match gesture and prolonged walk off the court.

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Williams first said she was saluting the Australian tennis fans. She then answered a follow up question about if it was her final appearance at the Grand Slam.

"I don't know. If I ever say farewell I wouldn't tell anyone," Williams told reporters.

Williams' eyes then filled with tears. She took took a deep breath and attempted to answer another question, but was overcome with emotion. She responded "I'm done" and left the room.

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Williams on Thursday followed the news conference with a post on Instagram.

"Melbourne and my Australian fans: Today was not an ideal outcome or performance, but it happens," Williams wrote on the post. "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. 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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Williams, 39, made her professional tennis debut at age 14 in 1995. The former No. 1 player in the WTA rankings needs one more Grand Slam title to tie Margaret Court for the all-time record. She ranks fourth on the all-time wins list, behind Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.

Williams' $93.3 million in career prize money is a women's tennis record. Her last Grand Slam title came at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was two months pregnant with her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian.

The 2021 French Open is the next Grand Slam on the tennis schedule, May 23 to June 5 in Paris. Williams is a three-time singles champion and a two-time doubles champion at Roland Garros.

Moments from Serena Williams' career

Serena Williams returns the ball to her sister, Venus, during their match at the Lipton Tennis Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., on March 28, 1998. Venus Williams, defeated her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Photo by Susan Knowles/UPI | License Photo

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