The women’s semifinals take center stage Thursday at the Australian Open in Melbourne. With fans expected to return during after a 5-day lockdown, Serena Williams takes on Naomi Osaka in a blockbuster meeting.
Osaka leads the legend 2-1 including that incredible US Open win in 2018. Serena, though, is playing well and out for revenge.
“I’ve been watching her and I’m sure she’s been watching me,” Serena said.
“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.”
Osaka, who has never lost once she reaches the quarterfinals at a Slam, said she gets intimitaded by Serena.
“Someone that I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court,” Osaka said of Serena.
Osaka saved two match points in a close win over Garbine Muguruza and she’s won her last 19 matches. Serena has also been pushed going three sets against Aryna Sabalenka.
In the second semifinal, powerful American Jen Brady will meet the surprising Karolina Muchova.
Muchova stunned world No. 1 Ash Barty 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Barty was in full control of the match up 6-1, 2-0. But down a break at 2-1, Muchova left the court during a medical timeout due to the heat. Upon return she ran off five of the next six games to take the second, and then continued her run in the third.
Barty missed two break chances at 2-all in the second, otherwise, the Australian’s game completely fell apart after the near-10 minute medical break. Barty looked tight and timid after the break.
“I would have liked to have just been a little bit sharper the next game,” Barty said about the break. “Started well with the first point, just made a couple loose errors in that game. I think for the rest of the set, that was the story. Probably pressed a little bit trying to be overly aggressive.
“Had some breakpoints, I think it was that 3-All, that was probably a bit of a critical game in the momentum there for the second set.
“I felt like I had small windows of opportunity probably midway through the second set and wasn’t able to kind of regroup enough to be clear in the third set how I wanted to play,” she added. “I think I just lost my way a little bit, which is disappointing without a doubt.
“I felt like I was in control of the match. I knew how I wanted to go about it, just lost my way a bit.”
Muchova, who upset two former Australian Open semifinals Elise Mertens and Karolina Pliskova en route, is now in her first Grand Slam semifinal.
“I started feeling a bit lost by the end of the first set. Ash started very good, she played almost like no mistakes, it was very tough. And I was a bit lost on the court, and my head was spinning so I took a break,” said Muchova.
“They just checked my pressure because I was a bit lost, you know? I was spinning. So they cooled me down a bit with ice, and it helped me.
“Just tried to put a ball in and go for it. Played a bit faster, going to the net. I think that was the key by the end.”
In the second quarterfinal, Brady also came from a set down to beat her good friend Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Pegula, playing her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, took advantage of a flurry of errors from Brady in the first, handing the former UCLA standout her first set loss of the event.
Brady began to find the range in her strokes and serve in the second, winning the last three games to force a decider.
Pegula broke right away but the lead wouldn’t last long as Brady rolled off six straight games to reach her second Slam semifinal.
“I think I felt really good out there physically,” Brady said. “I could maybe see on the other side of the net, maybe Jess was a little bit tired there. That definitely helped me mentally.
“It just gave me a little bit more confidence knowing that I’m doing pretty good, maybe she’s a little bit tired, now is my chance to really step up here and take advantage of that.”
Muchova beat Brady in their only meeting at 2019 Prague in a final set tiebreaker. But she won have a day off and the weather is expected to be warm against on Thursday.
“She’s crafty,” said Brady of Muchova. “She looks to move forward, has an all-court game. She’s really athletic. I hope it will be a good, competitive match. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
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