MELBOURNE – As Serena Williams walked off the court after her latest so-close-yet-so-far bid for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with a loss to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, the 39-year-old American paused and put her hand on her chest while thousands of spectators rose to applaud.
Was this, Williams was asked at a news conference after the 6-3, 6-4 semifinal defeat, her way of saying goodbye?
“If I ever say farewell," she replied with a smile, “I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
When the next question returned the conversation to the subject of Williams' many mistakes Thursday (Wednesday night EST) — twice as many unforced errors, 24, as winners, 12 — she shook her head, teared up, said, “I'm done,” and abruptly walked out of the session with reporters.
On Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. EST), Osaka will meet first-time Grand Slam finalist Jennifer Brady of the United States for the championship. The 22nd-seeded Brady, who is from Pennsylvania and played college tennis at UCLA, prevailed in an epic, 18-point last game to edge No. 25 Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.
Brady dropped to her back at the baseline after saving a trio of break points, then converting her fifth match point when Muchova sent a forehand long.
“My legs are shaking,” Brady said. “My heart is racing.”
She lost to Osaka in a three-set thriller in the U.S. Open semifinals last September.