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Serena Williams Stopped A Press Conference And Left The Room In Tears After Questions And Rumors About Her Retirement

"If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

Posted on February 18, 2021, at 8:14 a.m. ET

It was heartbreak for Serena Williams in Melbourne on Thursday as she lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Matt King / Getty Images

The 39-year-old legend had been continuing the quest for her 24th Grand Slam title — one that would see her equal the all-time record in tennis — but was halted for a second time by current world No. 3, Naomi Osaka.

Daniel Pockett / Getty Images

Serena first lost to Naomi in the US Open final back in 2018.

Following a thrilling run to the semifinals that saw Serena produce some of her best tennis since her return to the courts following the birth of her daughter in 2017, one of the greatest to ever play stopped to take in a standing ovation by the Australian crowd.

Matt King / Getty Images

The move, which saw Serena hold a hand to her heart and acknowledge the cheers before leaving the court, was somewhat uncharacteristic for the star, and has led to yet more talk about her potential retirement from the sport.

Congratulations on a great fortnight, @serenawilliams. We can't wait to see you back here next year 💕 #AusOpen | #AO2021

This wasn't helped by the fact that a clearly emotional Serena choked up in a press conference following the match and, after being asked about retirement, left the room in tears.

Serena crying 💔after the media keeps asking her about retirement

"The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see," she said of the reaction to her leaving the court. When asked if it was a farewell, Serena gave a wry laugh and added, "I don't know – if I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

However, despite seeming in good spirits when she gave the answer, seconds later Serena fought back tears and quickly put an end to the questions, tearfully saying: "I'm done."

Serena's potential retirement — and her older sister's, for that matter — has been a talking point for years and something that's continued to bubble since her return to the tennis tour.

Dylan Buell / Getty Images

However, despite being constantly written off by critics and trolls alike, Serena has produced some of the most consistent results in tennis over the last few years, reaching four Grand Slam finals and a slew of semi- and quarter-finals on top.

Al Bello / Getty Images

Any other player reaching those milestones would be hailed and celebrated. But, as is so often the case for Serena, it's instead seen as some kind of failure when she doesn't win, with her quest for that elusive 24th Grand Slam title dominating the conversation.

It's worth noting that, for many, Serena is already regarded as the best player of all time, defying critics as her incredibly successful career continues to flourish in its fourth decade (she turned pro in 1995).

Al Bello / Getty Images

Margaret Court, the woman who currently holds the record for Grand Slam titles, won most of them at the Australian Open (11) at a time when professional players rarely entered the draw.

Serena already holds more Grand Slam titles than any other player — including men — since the inception of the Open Era. She won her 23rd Grand Slam title while pregnant and holds the record for most prize money in the women's game with close to $100 million (for reference, No. 2 on that list is her sister Venus, with just over $40 million in prize money). There are countless other records too. She even has a damn trophy room in her house — bigger than the average apartment no less — that still doesn’t fit them all in.

Without a doubt, she is an icon and legend of the sport, regardless of whether she clinches her 24th major or not. She's already cemented her legacy — the rest is just a cherry on top.

It's unclear what Serena's professional tennis future holds. And, as she said in Thursday's press conference, she'll likely keep that information to herself.

Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Until then, we get the privilege of watching one of the greatest athletes of all time continue to thrive and, with three other Grand Slams and an Olympic Games on the horizon (pandemic permitting), there's a lot more to look forward to.

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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