The American was knocked out of the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday
Seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams hinted that she might never return to the Grand Slam following a shock first-round defeat by Harmony Tan on Tuesday.
Pulling out of the tournament at the same stage in 2021 with a hamstring injury, the 40-year-old showed clear signs of ring rust in her first significant outing of the past 12 months.
At the end of a match that spanned more than three hours and lasted until 10.35pm local time in southwest London, she fell 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (10-7) to a an opponent ranked 115 in the world.
Given her age and the quality of her showing, Williams was naturally probed on how much longer she intends to continue at the top level.
"Like I said coming into this, I'm just planning for right now, seeing how I feel, just to go from there," Williams answered.
But when pressed further on whether the match was a farewell to SW19, Williams confessed that it was a question she can't answer for now.
"I don't know. Who knows? Who knows where I'll pop up," she offered.
Williams suggested she would not be satisfied with the defeat being her parting memory at the British sporting spectacle.
"Obviously not. You know me. Definitely not," she insisted.
"But today I gave all I could do. Maybe tomorrow I could have given more. Maybe a week ago I could have given more. But today was what I could do. At some point, you have to be able to be OK with that."
Later this year, though, she plans to contest the US Open which is of great importance to her if all is well.
"When you're at home, especially in New York, and the US Open, that being the first place I've won a Grand Slam, [it] is something that's always super special," Williams explained. "Your first time is always special."
"There's definitely lots of motivation to get better and to play at home."
Williams was on the back foot from the offset but recovered in the first set to lead 4-2.
Thanks to an alarming 21 unforced errors, though, she ceded the set 7-5.
In the second, Williams came out roaring to clinch it 6-1, and a comeback was on the cards when she went up 3-1 in the decider.
Yet the third and final set went to a tie break, where Williams took a 4-0 lead.
The American was unable to capitalize, though, and again fell behind to a 24-year-old French foe who enjoyed the highlight of her career with her eventual victory.
"I think physically I did pretty good," claimed Williams, who was given a standing ovation on Center Court on her way out.
"I think the last couple of points, I was really suffering there."
"But I feel like in just those key points, winning some of those points, is always something mentally that you kind of need. I did pretty good on maybe one or two of them, but obviously not enough," she confessed.
Reacting to her landmark win, Tan said she was "really scared" when the draw came out and called her beaten opponent a "legend".
"I thought if I can win one or two games, it would be good for me," added Tan, who now faces Sara Sorribes Tormo in the second round on Thursday.