Sports, Tennis

Williams exits in tears as Osaka halts record bid

Published : 18 Feb 2021 07:44 PM


Japan's Naomi Osaka brutally halted Serena Williams's latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title as she set up an Australian Open final with Jennifer Brady on Thursday.

Three-time major-winner Osaka once again proved the American's nemesis with a one-sided 6-3, 6-4 win which heightened questions about whether Williams, 39, will ever match Margaret Court's all-time record.

Williams put her hand on her heart as she acknowledged a standing ovation on Rod Laver Arena, and later cut short her post-match press conference in tears, saying: "I'm done."

The American has lost four Grand Slam finals since winning her 23rd in Melbourne in 2017, and victory over Osaka would have given her a golden opportunity against Brady, who will be playing first major decider.

But US Open champion Osaka has never lost a Slam semi-final and after going 0-2 down in the first set, she reeled off five straight games to take charge against a despairing Williams.

"I hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games, I was just really nervous and scared," said Osaka.

"But then I sort of eased my way into it and the biggest thing for me was having fun."

Williams lamented a "big error day" and refused to discuss whether it might have been her last Australian Open.

"I don't know," she said, when asked if her salute to the crowd was a farewell.

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

Williams's exit was watched by thousands of fans returning after a state-wide snap coronavirus lockdown, a welcome sight in Rod Laver Arena after five days of matches in front of empty seats.