Serena Williams’ quest for 24 Grand Slams, and tying Margaret Court’s record, will continue after the American was handed a 6-3, 6-4 loss by the No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals.
Things started out well for Williams, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead and looked poised to make another Australian Open final. But then, Osaka settled down.
“I hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games and I was just really like nervous and scared I think in the beginning, and I eased my way into it,” Osaka told ESPN’s — and two-time Aussie Open winner himself — Jim Courier on the court after the match.
“Honestly for me, I don’t know, it’s just always an honor to play her and I just didn’t want to go out, like, really bad, so I just wanted to try my best.”
Well, Osaka definitely brought her A-game. While the majority of the stats showed an even match-up, Osaka dominated in winners with 20 to Williams’ 12. Both players struggled with their first serves, and Osaka had eight double faults (Williams had one), but the 23-year-old also had six aces, with a number of them coming at key times.
At her post-match press conference, Williams, who was playing in her 40th Grand Slam semifinal, cited her errors — 18 forced, 24 unforced — as the turning point.
“The difference today was errors,” she said. “I made so many errors today, so, honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up 5-Love. I just made so many errors.”
When asked a few questions later what caused the errors or if it was just a bad day, Williams broke down.
“I don’t know,” she said before adding, appearing on the verge of tears, “I’m done.” She then left the press conference.
Prior to the last question, Wiliams, who turned 39 in September, was asked about why, when she walked off the court, she put her hand to her heart.
“I don’t know. The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see,” she responded. Melbourne had been in a five-day lockdown and Wednesday was the first time fans were allowed back into Melbourne Park.
However, social media immediately reacted to the gesture and contemplated whether this meant it was her last trip Down Under.
“I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” she said smiling
It’s been a little more than four years since Williams won a Grand Slam; she beat sister Venus at the Australian Open in 2017. She’s won one tournament since: the Auckland Classic in 2020.
“I was a little kid watching her play and just to be on the court playing against her for me is a dream,” Osaka said to Courier.
Wednesday’s marquee meeting marked the fourth time the two stars have met on the tennis court. Williams’ lone win was at Canada’s Rogers Cup in 2019. Osaka’s previous wins were at the 2018 Miami Open and the 2018 U.S. Open. That Grand Slam meeting saw Osaka, who is 16 years Williams’ junior, win her first title. Her win, however, was marred by a verbal altercation between Williams and the chair umpire during the match that saw her get three on-court violations and Osaka in tears at the end as boos rained down on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I know that everybody was cheering for her,” she said. “I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”
According to Williams, the pair have put the Open behind them.
“I think we both have had closure, and we have reached out to each other,” said Williams after her quarterfinal match at Melbourne Park. “I have definitely reached out.
“I think she’s a great competitor and she’s a cool cat.”
Sporting News had all the scoring updates and highlights from Naomi Osaka’s straight-set win in the women’s singles semifinal at the 2021 Australian Open.
(3) Naomi Osaka def. (10) Serena Williams, 6-3, 6-4
(All times are Eastern)
Second set: Osaka wins 6-4
Osaka wins 6-4
Osaka serving to close it out and begins with an ace. She then serves into the body and Williams’ return goes wide. On the next serve, she goes wide, and Williams sends the mis-hit off court. Now matchpoint and after a short rally, Williams hits the backhand into the net and it’ll be Osaka in the final.
Osaka leads 5-4
Wow. What a cut by Osaka as she finds a ridiculous cross-court angle to go up 0-30. Williams then double faults to give Osaka three break point chances. Osaka only needs one as she again nails the backhand winner — this time an approach shot — cross-court.
Set tied 4-4
A shaky game for Osaka as she double faults twice and hands Williams three break points. She saves the first one as Williams sends a shot long and then gets Williams’ defensive backhand to go long to save the second. But then, Osaka double faults as the serve down the line is wide.
Osaka leads 4-3
Williams responds with her own five-point service game that started with a backhand winner down the line into the open court and ended with Osaka sending the backhand return long.
Osaka leads 4-2
Well, that was a way to turn off the Serena surge. Osaka wins in five points and finishes the game with another ace — No. 5 of the match.
Osaka leads 3-2
Trying to get back into things, Williams rips a forehand winner and lets out a yell as the crowd cheers — clearly behind her — to get the game to 15-all. She then gets Osaka to hit the ball into the net and once again looks around, as if to say: Why can’t I do that on every point? Williams then gets up to 40-15 and closes the game out as Osaka hits the forehand into the net.
Osaka leads 3-1
After double faulting to make it 40-30, and then missing on her first serve, Osaka closes out the game with a big-time forehand winner down the line.
Osaka leads 2-1
We’re back on serve as Williams runs through a game in five points — including one ace and one serve that Osaka couldn’t get back.
Osaka leads 2-0
Williams with a backhand return winner to get it to 30-15 (Osaka serving) and it sounds like the crowd is behind the American. Osaka responds with an ace down the T and then an ace out wide. She’s definitely feeling that serve now.
Osaka leads 1-0
Williams with a big-time forehand behind Osaka to get things to 15-all and she yells out: ‘Make a shot.” Williams getting more vocal but faces break point. Osaka closes out a 10-point rally with a backhand winner and takes Game No. 1.
First set: Osaka wins 6-3
Osaka wins 6-3
Serving to close out the set, Osaka dominates and controls play as she needs just five points to take the game and the set. She needed just 38 minutes to close things out; reminder — she trailed 2-0 to start.
Osaka leads 5-3
Williams fires off her second ace of the set to get to 30-0 and closes things out with a serve that Osaka barely gets her racquet head on to stop the bleeding (Osaka had won five straight games).
Osaka leads 5-2
A 1-2-3-4 game for Osaka that included an ace and Williams mis-hitting the return on game point. Williams had a chance to go up a double break in Game 4 but couldn’t finish and will now serve to stay in the set.
Osaka leads 4-2
OK. Osaka has definitely settled in. Off a long rally, she hits the backhand winner down the line and gets two break points herself. She finishes off the game with another forehand winner.
Osaka leads 3-2
Osaka seems to be settling in as she again wails a forehand winner to get the service game to 30-all. However, she follows it up with an unforced error and gives Williams another break point opportunity. The 23-year-old gets it to deuce as she gets Williams on the defensive and finishes with a backhand approach winner. Osaka takes the set lead (deuce No. 2) after Williams’ forehand goes off the tape and wide.
Set tied 2-2
Another game that goes to deuce (after Williams had a pair of break points) and Williams gets the advantage (and another break point chance) off a tremendous cross-court running backhander that Osaka can’t get back on the court. Osaka, however, gets it back to deuce with a forehand rip that just catches the line and then gets a break point chance. Williams eventually sends a forehand long and we’re back on serve.
Williams leads 2-1
Williams with another break point chance but Osaka gets it to deuce and then gets out of trouble winning the next two points — the game point with an ace down the T.
Williams leads 2-0
Williams starts off her first service game firing off an ace. Two points later, Williams gets Osaka to play a defensive shot and the spry 39-year-old hits the swinging volley in the open court to go up 40-0. Williams closes things out despite only getting one first serve in.
Williams leads 1-0
Osaka serves to start and the telecast reports she struggled to find her toss during warmups. She then proceeds to double fault to make it 15-30 before hitting a shot wide to give Williams an early break opportunity. Osaka saves the first break point but then hits a backhand in the net on the next point to give Williams the break.
10:16 p.m. — Match begins with Osaka serving.
10:10 p.m. — Warm-ups underway. Osaka, by the way, has won 19 straight matches. Serena has won her last 12 matches against a player in the top 3 at Grand Slams (last loss was to No. 1 Justine Henin at the 2007 U.S. Open).
10:07 p.m. — Players walk out. Osaka takes it all in as there are some fans in the stands.