Naomi Osaka is one win away from a fourth career Grand Slam title.
No. 3 Osaka defeated No. 10 Serena Williams in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, in the 2021 Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena. That means Williams remains one Grand Slam championship shy of Margaret Court’s record of 24.
This was the high-profile matchup the entire tennis world wanted when the women’s single draw was released, and it marked the fourth chapter in their head-to-head history.
Osaka won two of the first three, including the 2018 U.S. Open final. However, Williams won their most recent matchup in 2019 in Toronto and is dominant at the Australian Open with seven titles on her resume.
That seemed to set the stage for a Serena victory, although Osaka is undoubtedly one of the best in the sport already as a three-time Grand Slam champion who won the 2019 Australian Open.
Osaka has also been unbeatable of late when she is within striking distance of a Grand Slam, which was a major storyline coming into Wednesday’s match. As Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times highlighted, Williams has won two titles in her last 11 trips to a major semifinal. By contrast, Osaka won the title in each of the previous three times she reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal.
The 23-year-old entered this match a perfect 10-0 in the final three rounds of a Grand Slam event.
Despite the undefeated mark in such matches, Osaka was immediately under pressure when Williams broke the first game and had a break point to go up 3-0 in the opening set. However, the two-time U.S. Open winner quickly settled in and won five straight games as she battled back and seized control in the early going.
That Osaka won the set was notable because she was far from her best with the serve and hit 36 percent of her first serves inbounds. She made up for it with opportunistic defense and converted both of her break points. Continue reading