The much-hyped showdown between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka went the way of the younger generation as the Japanese star overcame an early deficit to take the match 6-3, 6-4 and reach her second Australian Open final.
“I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up,” Osaka said. “You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved.”
Serena began the match the sharper player as Osaka sprayed errors and couldn’t find her serve. Serena raced out to a 2-0 lead and had break chances to go up a double-break but couldn’t convert.
After some early jitters, Osaka settled down and began to dictate with her powerful groundstrokes. The reigning US Open champion ran off 8 of the next 9 games to put a stranglehold on the match with a 2-love lead in the second.
Serena fought back from a break down to level at 4-all, but the 39-year-old wouldn’t win another point.
I think I just hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games,” Osaka said. “I was just really nervous and scared in the beginning and then I sort of eased my way into it. For me I think the biggest thing is just having fun and it’s the first day having the crowd in a while.”
Osaka has now won her last 20 matches and she is a perfect 11-0 once she reaches a Grand Slam quarterfinal. She also improves to 2-0 against Serena in Grand Slam play with both wins in comfortable fashion.
Serena missing another chance to tie Margaret Court at 24. And American cut short her press conference after the match as the emotions caught up to her.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous, no,” Serena said. “The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today.
“Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up 5-love. I just made so many errors.
“I felt like I was hitting well. I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple of games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities.”
And then she addressed if she would return.
“I don’t know, if I’ll ever say farewell,” she said. “I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
In the final, Osaka will battle Jen Brady in a re-match of their thrilling US Open semifinal.
Brady overcame a set hole to deny a very tough Karolina Muchova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in just under two hours.
The 25-year-old former UCLA Bruin tossed in 38 unforced errors but converted all three break point chances and hung on to win it on her fifth match point in a grueling final game.
“I came out a little strange today,” said Brady. “I was super excited but at the same time pretty flat footed. My legs felt fresh but at the same time were not moving. I felt like I was stuck in mud. I didn’t pick up my intensity until the beginning of the third set.”
Brady has won 11 of her last 12 hard court Grand Slams dating back to the US Open where she made it to her first Slam semifinal losing ot Osaka in three.
“I’m obviously pretty excited to be in the final,” said Brady. “It’s an incredible achievement. I think it will be a really tough match. Obviously she has won a few Grand Slams. I think it’ll be a really good match.”
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