Sports

Osaka beats Serena Williams in Australian Open Semi Finals

PTI Melbourne | Updated on February 18, 2021 Published on February 18, 2021

Naomi Osaka

As Serena Williams walked off the court after her latest so-close-yet-so-far bid for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with a loss to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, the 39-year-old American paused and put her hand on her chest while thousands of spectators rose to applaud.

Was this, Williams was asked at a news conference after the 6-3, 6-4 semifinal defeat, her way of saying goodbye? "If I ever say farewell," she replied with a smile, “I wouldn't tell anyone." When the next question returned the conversation to the subject of Williams' many mistakes Thursday (Wednesday night EST) — twice as many unforced errors, 24, as winners, 12 — she shook her head, teared up, said, “I'm done,” and abruptly walked out of the session with reporters.

On Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. EST), Osaka will meet first-time Grand Slam finalist Jennifer Brady of the United States for the championship. The 22nd-seeded Brady, who is from Pennsylvania and played college tennis at UCLA, prevailed in an epic, 18-point last game to edge No. 25 Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.

Brady dropped to her back at the baseline after saving a trio of break points, then converting her fifth match point when Muchova sent a forehand long.

"My legs are shaking,” Brady said. "My heart is racing." She lost to Osaka in a three-set thriller in the U.S. Open semifinals last September.

"Everyone's just really excited whenever they play their first final," Osaka noted about what awaits Brady, "but they're also really nervous.” Williams was hoping to get to her 34th Grand Slam final but, once again, couldn't quite get the job done in order to add one more Grand Slam trophy to her collection of 23 and equal Margaret Court for the most in tennis history.

Osaka, who also beat Williams in the chaotic 2018 U.S. Open final that concluded with the crowd booing and both women in tears, reached her fourth major title match and stretched her winning streak to 20 matches by claiming the last eight points.

"I don't know if there's any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play," Osaka, 23, said about Williams, "and just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream.” The No. 3-seeded Osaka's Grand Slam collection also includes last year's U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open and she is, without a doubt, the most dangerous hard-court player in the women's game at the moment.

That used to be Williams, of course. But she was off-target too much in this contest.

"I could have won. I could have been up 5-Love,” said Williams, who instead took a 2-0 lead at the outset before dropping the next five games. “I just made so many errors.” Her forehand, in particular, went awry, with no fewer than 10 unforced errors off that side in the first set alone.

"Too many mistakes there,” she said. “Easy mistakes.” Williams' frustration was made plain early in the second set, when she leaned over and screamed, “Make a shot! Make a shot!” After collecting her professional era-record 23rd Slam singles trophy at Melbourne Park while pregnant in 2017, Williams has reached four major finals and lost them all.

She's also now lost in the semifinals twice in the past three majors.

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Published on February 18, 2021
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