It’s barely 24 hours since Serena Williams was beaten in straight sets by Naomi Osaka in their Australian Open semi-final clash, yet already there are calls for her to retire.

After the loss Williams paused and waved to the crowd in the stands on Rod Laver Arena.

She placed a hand over her heart, as the covid-hit, half-full arena gave her a standing ovation.

Serena Williams walks off court after being defeated by Naomi Osaka. Photo: Tennis Australia/ NATASHA MORELLO

One commentator then noted: “That might be the last time we see her here.”

It might well be, right now we can only speculate, time and age, they say catches up with us all.

At 39, Serena will know full well if her body can sustain another few months or another year of intense athletic interaction.

Tennis is a demanding sport, not only on the mind, but also on the body, the ankles, the knees, hips and that’s before we even consider wrists, arms and shoulders.

For many of us, playing competitive sport at the highest level is hard to imagine, let alone entering your 40th year.

Serena Williams gets emotional during a press conference after her semi-final defeat. Photo: Tennis Australia/ ROB PREZIOSO

Tom Brady of the NFL may disagree but it’s a challenge too far for perhaps 99% of the world’s population.

Longevity though, as one writer put it, is no consolation for Williams.

Media is abuzz trying to dissect and examine the meaning of her farewell wave, of her post-match comments, her tears and departure.

Had she already made her mind up this was her last gig Down Under?

Australians would certainly hope not.

In fact, at this Open, Serena has looked a winner – far more so than in her past couple of years.

And let’s remember, this is a woman who has gone through pregnancy, has a beautiful daughter and has still emerged to play in four slam finals. No mean feat.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams hug at the net after their semi-final match. Photo: Tennis Australia/ NATASHA MORELLO

77 Grand Slam tournaments, second only to older sister Venus on 88.

So has age finally caught up? Or have younger, hungrier players caught up?

I would argue elements of both, but the latter more so, where players like Osaka, who used to feel they were a set down before they entered the court, now have the killer instinct.

In fact, at this Open, Serena has looked a winner – far more so than in her past couple of years.

There was a time when Serena’s killer instinct won her matches, won slams, pulverised opposition.

Even only four years ago she developed a tactic to win in two straight sets, no hanging around.

When former rival Justine Henin, a year younger than Williams, and a mum of two, was asked if she saw herself competing like Williams again, her response was simple: “No way, no chance.”

A tearful Serena Williams leaves the press conference.Photo: Tennis Australia/ ROB PREZIOSO

To play at this level, and more importantly, still, compete and reach a semi-final, is a phenomenal achievement.

To want to play, mentally, at this level, knowing what you will have to put your body through, is also both a challenge and an achievement.

Most 39-year-olds are far better acquainted with their local wine bar than a tennis court – but here we have a sporting legend facing the ultimate question: Is it time?

They say pro sports players ‘know’ when it’s time.

Serena Williams celebrates her win over Simona Halep. Photo: Tennis Australia/ MORGAN HANCOCK

If Serena has decided, or is about to decide ‘it’s time’, that will be her decision alone – and there will be, quite rightly, a fanfare of good wishes from around the world.

If she decides that she still has that hunger – then let’s give her the opportunity to continue.

After so many years of watching some pretty awesome tennis, we at least, owe her that.


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