On Wednesday night, tennis legend Serena Williams fell to Naomi Osaka in straight sets in the semifinal of the Australian Open. She left the court at Rod Laver Arena to significant applause, a touching but somewhat strange moment, since there has been no official word that Williams is stepping away from the sport.
After the match, during a media session she was asked if that special moment was something of a goodbye to her fans. She didn't have a definite answer for what lies ahead.
"I don't know," Williams said, per ESPN. "If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone." Shortly thereafter, she cut her press conference short, leaving the session as she fought back tears. It only added to the significant questions about her career.
Hours after the match, she took to Instagram to post a message to her fans on hand in Australia. "Today was not an ideal outcome or performance but it happens," Serena Williams wrote. "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 today. I am forever in debt and grateful to each and everyone single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you."
If Serena Williams chooses to step away from the sport sometime in the near future, she'll do so as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She is second in women's grand slam tournament singles titles, with 23 in her career, one behind Margaret Court. Her 23 titles are the most of any player in the open era.
Hopefully fans elsewhere get their chances to see Serena Williams play at least one more time in other tournaments around the world, but whenever she makes the decision to retire, there should be no shortage of love and appreciation for one of the all-time greats in any sport.