Australian Open: Naomi Osaka ends Serena Williams’ record grand slam bid in semi-final wipeout
- Japanese world number three brushes aside 39-year-old Williams in straight sets as thousands allowed into stadium
- ‘It’s always an honour to play her and I didn’t want to go out (of the tournament) really bad,’ said Osaka, who will face Jennifer Brady in the final
Naomi Osaka emphatically ended Serena Williams’ latest bid for a record-equalling 24th grand slam crown with a straight-sets demolition in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday.
The Japanese third seed swept past the American veteran 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena in front of thousands of fans allowed back in after Melbourne lifted a snap five-day lockdown.
Osaka, 23, will face American Jennifer Brady, who beat Czech Karolina Muchova in the other semi-final, on Saturday for a fourth slam title after her success at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and last year, and Melbourne in 2019.
The victory left Williams, who won her last major in Melbourne in 2017, stranded on 23 grand slam titles as she strives to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Since winning while pregnant in Australia four years ago, Williams has lost four slam finals, including one to Osaka in a controversial and heated 2018 US Open decider which left both women in tears.
“I hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games, I was just really nervous and scared,” said Osaka, who reeled off five games in a row in the opening set after going 2-0 down.
“But then I sort of eased my way into it and the biggest thing for me was having fun.
“For me, it’s always an honour to play her and I didn’t want to go out (of the tournament) really bad, so I just tried my best,” she added.
While Osaka held a 2-1 head-to-head advantage going into the blockbuster clash, 39-year-old Williams had a huge edge on big-match experience.
Ahead of the showdown, she had won all eight of her previous semi-finals at Melbourne Park stretching back 18 years to when she beat Kim Clijsters on her way to her first title in Australia.
Her first ever grand slam semi, against Lindsay Davenport at 1999 US Open, was played when Osaka was just one.
Osaka boasted a 100 per cent win record in slams when she got past the fourth round, and she kept it intact on Thursday.