Novak Djokovic said he could understand Serena Williams’ emotions after she exited the Australian Open and left her press conference in tears following her loss to Naomi Osaka in Thursday’s semi-final.
Williams said “I’m done” when she struggled to answer a question about her performance in the 6-3 6-4 loss, with the 39-year-old looking visibly emotional after being asked whether she was waving farewell for good to the crowd at Melbourne Park.
The American said “if I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone”, and after winning his semi-final Djokovic said he was “proud” to have played in the same era as Williams.
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“I'm proud and honoured to be playing at the same time she does and to see her greatness, experience her greatness is a thrill," he said.
Djokovic also said Williams’ emotions were understandable given the circumstances, insisting the weight of pressure can take its toll.
He added: “When you're chasing big things that are related to the history of the sport, obviously it has a lot of weight, a lot of pressure. And regardless of the amount of years that you have played on the tour and the experience that you have, you still feel it on your shoulders.
'I'm done' - Serena leaves press conference in tears
“I can empathise with Serena and what she's going through. She's such an amazing champion that inspires both male and female athletes around the world in what she has been doing, I mean, still is doing in her age, is extraordinary.
“I'm sure she's disappointed. I heard she was also emotional in the press conference. And, you know, regardless of all the success that she had, I know that when you lose a big match you're frustrated. You're p****d off and you're emotional. Of course, it's completely understandable.
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“I think when you see a larger picture for her and everything that who she is, what she stands for on and off the court, it's, I mean, she's one of the greatest ever. There is no doubt, athletes, not just tennis player.”
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