On February 17, the 23-time Grand Slam victor lost the semifinal to Naomi Osaka in just two sets. After hugging the 23-year-old superstar, Williams gave a wave to the crowd with a hand over her heart.
In the post-match news conference, one reporter asked Williams if the gesture was a form of “farewell” as retirement rumors persist. “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” the 39-year-old replied.
Another reporter then asked what Williams thought may have caused her errors against Osaka, or if it was just one of those days. “I don’t know,” Williams said through tears. “I’m done.”
Now, fans of Osaka and Williams are showing both incredible players support online. “Taking a moment to think about how lucky we are to be in a time to watch both Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka,” one user wrote. “This is black history.”
“SERENA WILLIAMS HAS THE RECORD FOR THE MOST GRAND SLAM TITLES IN THE OPEN ERA & WON THE 2017 AUSTRALIAN OPEN WHILE PREGNANT,” another user couldn’t help but remind everyone at home. “I COULDNT MAKE MYSELF A CUP OF TEA IN THE FIRST 3 MONTHS OF PREGNANCY SHE WON A GRAND SLAM THERE IS NO GREATER ATHLETE.”
Osaka also praised the G.O.A.T in an interview. “I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka told the crowd. “Just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream.”
Following the press conference, Serena Williams took to Instagram to thank her fans. “Melbourne and my Australian fans—Today was not an ideal outcome or performance but it happens,” she wrote. “I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all.”
She continued, “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.”