Serena Slams Halep, Sets Osaka Semifinal At Australian Open; Barty Wants To Join SF Party
by Staff | February 16th, 2021, 10:03 am
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The super semifinal showdown is set between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka Thursday afternoon at the Australian Open.

Today, Osaka had no trouble blowing past the tricky Su-Wei Hsieh 6-2, 6-2.

“Today it was really important to have a plan, just because she’s an opponent that I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” said Osaka after reaching her fourth Slam semifinal.

“I feel like every time I play her, it’s really challenging because I never know exactly what she’s going to do with the ball,” she said. “I think today I just really focused on my game plan. I think it was kind of very clear what I thought I had to do.

“I talked through it more,” Osaka added. “For me, I also feel like I’ve experienced, like, what it is like to play her in those tough battles, kind of how to avoid that situation.”

The former Australian Open champion has now won her last 18 matches and once she reaches the quarterfinals at a Slam, she’s now a perfect 10-0.

Hsieh has played Osaka tough, taking her the distance in four of their five meetings including a win, but not today.

“This is what happens in tennis,” Hsieh said. “Sometimes you are not taking the chance, you lose the point, then maybe you lose the match. This is what happened. I hope next time I do better.”

In the evening, the marquee matchup between Serena and Simona Halep was fairly one-sided as Serena powered past the Romanian 6-3, 6-3.

“I definitely think this is the best match I’ve played this tournament for sure,” Serena said.

“Obviously I had to, going up against the No.2 in the world. I knew I had to do better and that’s what I did. I’ve been watching her and I’m sure she’s been watching me.

“I feel like this is such a good opportunity for me just to keep doing my best. It’s the first Grand Slam of the year for me. I had an incredibly long, arduous off season. And so, I’m honestly happy with every win I get.”

Serena smacked an opening Halep serve for a return winner, and that set the tone. Halep played counterpuncher which does work, but Tuesday night Serena had the forehand firing and was able to angle Simona around the court and then pounce on the Halep serve.

Halep did find a foothold in the second, going up 3-1 but Serena promptly regained control by outslugging Simona to win the last five games. Serena even led 14-6 in the rallies of nine or more shots.

“My feeling after this match is that I was not that far, but also, she was stronger in the important moments,” said Halep who is still seeking her first hard court Slam. “I accept she beat me, but also if I could be a little bit stronger with the serve the chance could have been a little bit bigger for me.

“In my opinion, I had a good game tonight. I’m not that disappointed about myself. Attitude maybe a little bit negative the whole tournament, but I’m gonna work on this, and I will come back stronger, for sure, with that.”

Serena reaches her 9th Australian Open final and the 39-year-old wins her 362nd career Grand Slam match which equals Roger Federer.

Osaka, though, has won two from three off Serena though the two haven’t met since the 2019 Canadian Open won by Serena.

“She’s Serena, someone that I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court,” Osaka said. “I feel like them playing their match tonight is going to be really fun.”

Said Serena, “I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game,” she said. “I feel like she does everything well. She has a good serve, she has a great return, she’s strong on both sides.”

On Wednesday, Ash Barty is back to face a Karolina but not Pliskova. Instead it’s Muchova who is playing in her first Australian Open quarter. And then an all-American battle takes place between Jen Brady and Jessica Pegula.

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