Serena Williams makes teary Australian Open exit at the hands of Osaka

Serena Williams broke down in tears and cut short her post-match news conference after her 6-3, 6-4 defeat by Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals yesterday ended her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

World No. 3 Osaka will meet 24h-ranked Jennifer Brady in tomorrow's final.

Williams, who is one Grand Slam short of Margaret Court's record, walked off Rod Laver Arena to a standing ovation. She paused for a moment to put her hand on her heart and wave to the spectators, who were allowed back after a snap five-day lockdown in Melbourne was lifted.

When asked if that gesture was a final farewell to Melbourne Park, the 39-year-old said with a smile: "If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

But the smile soon faded, and a question about whether her loss to Osaka was just a "bad day at the office" saw her take a sip of water before choking up.

"I don't know. I'm done," she said, leaving the room in tears.

Williams had looked her sharpest in years, but 24 unforced errors cost her against the Japanese, who also beat her in the 2018 US Open final.

"The difference today was errors," Williams acknowledged earlier.

"There were opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love. I just made so many errors."

While Williams rued her mistakes, Osaka credited her mental strength for the win.

"There was a point when I got broken today," said the 23-year-old, who reeled off five straight games after going 2-0 down in the first set.

"I had all these thoughts about how she's the best server, I'm probably not going to be able to break her.

"Then I told myself to erase those thoughts... I was telling myself I don't care because I can play only one point at a time and I'm going to try my best to play every point as well as I can."

Her next opponent Brady, who defeated Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the other semi-final, will be hoping for an upset after losing to Osaka in last year's US Open semi-finals.

"I have earned the right to be... in a Grand Slam final on Saturday," said the 25-year-old American, the last player standing among those forced into a hard 14-day quarantine after arriving in Australia. - REUTERS