Friday , March 5 2021

Australian Open: Naomi Osaka will face Jennifer Brady in the final after defeating Serena Williams

Serena Williams hugs Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka won both of her Grand Slam games against Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka claimed an impressive victory over Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open final and end the American’s last journey after the Grand Slam 24 title.

Three-time slam champion Osaka faced early pressure from Williams to win 6-3 6-4.

Osaka is in a 20-game unbeaten streak and has never lost a slam final.

The Japanese will meet Jennifer Brady in the final on Saturday after the American defeats Carolina Motsova.

Brady beat the Czech 6-4 3-6 6-4 to seal a spot in its first Grand Slam final.

It will be a rematch for the 2020 U.S. Open semifinals, which Osaka went through in three sets.

“I was really nervous and scared at first and then I pretty much made my way into it,” Osaka said of her game with Williams.

“It’s just always an honor to play it and I just did not want to go out really a friend. I just wanted to try my best.”

This is the first time Williams has lost a semi-final at the Australian Open in eight appearances in the last four.

Williams will stay to look for the opportunities she has given her and think again whether she will equal Margaret Kurt’s big record.

Osaka holds herself

Naomi Osaka's camera message to her sister
Osaka wrote a message to her sister Marie after her victory over Williams

Osaka Williams’ last Grand Slam match reached the 2018 US Open final – a game to remember Williams’ outburst at the referee And Osaka tears at the presentation ceremony.

Since then, Osaka has won two more major titles and rose to third place in the world rankings, and also found more confidence and calm in court.

It was Williams, with all her experience, who started better, breaking Osaka’s nerves in the first leg of the game before holding her serve to take a 2-0 lead.

Although Osaka’s submission was not at its best, her strength and more comfortable movement allowed her to hit back, taking advantage of a dip in Williams’ game to win six of the last seven games and take the first set.

Williams’ own submission, such a big weapon in her game, did not fire, and she was more frustrated as her big shots missed the mark and Osaka found the line.

The tenth seed shouted at herself to “make a shot” as she mixed up slight errors with strong winners to move on to early dismantling, but the game seemed to pass when she broke down.

A tentative Osaka, who served a 5-3 lead, broke to 30, with the crowd cheering for Williams, but the Japanese discovered a huge gravel that immediately fired back.

She broke Williams in love and then produced four huge starters, including one ace, to sum up the game in 75 minutes.

What next for Williams?

Serena Williams recognizes the audience
Williams said goodbye to the crowd at Rod Laver’s arena

The biggest frustration for Williams would be that in large parts of the deal she clung to Osaka, before simple mistakes disappointed her.

Williams was so impressive in front of the second semifinal mark, in the quarterfinals, and this seemed to be her best chance so far to beat Osaka for the second time in four meetings.

Her movement and overall fitness are as good as she has been since maternity leave in 2018.

But Osaka often came out on top in the longer sessions, her light power allowed her to finish the point with a winner, Williams failed to find a way beyond her, and finished with 24 unforced errors for 12 winners.

With the drop in her first serve percentage, Williams tried to push herself further, but she could do nothing to prevent Osaka from winning the final eight points of the game.

Coach Patrick Muratoglou said the 39-year-old was “not obsessed” with adjusting the court record, but it’s no secret she used it to motivate her to return to the column.

It was said that by comparing the record, Williams would secure her status as the greatest of all time – but the heartfelt standing call that the Broad Broad Lover Arena audience gave her hinted that she had already secured that title.

Brady survives a feverish ending

Jennifer Brady is celebrating
Brady eventually managed to celebrate after converting her fifth game point

Brady and Osaka both described their semi-final match at the Flushing Meadows as one of their best games.

The U.S. Open was Brady’s breakthrough in the Grand Slam after battling injuries and mostly playing doubles in return.

She was the more solid of the two against Motsova, who stunned Ashley Barty in the quarter-finals, but required some real gravel to win the game as the Czech saved four game points.

The 22nd seed went down on her knees, thinking she converted her second game point when Motsuba hit the net, before realizing her shot.

Brady’s team pushed her to get up and she had to fend off two break points as her opponent tried to fight back to the set.

An edgy 18-point game saw Brady win on her fifth game point as Motsuba sent a long time.


BBC tennis reporter Russell Fuller

Nor was it the best serving day, and the quality was not as high as we expected, but Naomi Osaka sure knows how to close a game.

She won the final eight points in the semifinals immediately after submitting three double-down faults to the drop. The rating does not yet reflect that, but it has played like the best in the world since the resumption of tours in August.

Only time will tell how many more chances Serena Williams has to record Margaret Kurt’s all-time record.

She played and did very well at the start of her full 24th year in a tour, and was good enough to beat Simona Halp in straight systems in the quarterfinals.

But Osaka – like others in the semifinals and Williams’ final semifinal – proved a bridge too far.

Laoska, 23, has an advantage at age 16. The average age of the top 10 player is currently 25.

Hopefully Williams will want to play later. Her preoccupation with the court record remains an ongoing charm, even if it should not remotely affect the way her career is perceived.

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