When the Australian Open draw was revealed, all eyes were glued to a potential Naomi Osaka-Serena Williams semifinal. The two played in an exhibition after their hard quarantine ended with the American winning in a third set tiebreak.
Their head-to-head was 2-1 in favor of the Japanese number one, but Williams won their most recent matchup in the 2019 Rogers Cup. This match was about who could control the baseline and dictate the points.
Osaka won the match 6-3, 6-4 and will face the winner of Karolina Muchova or Jennifer Brady in the final. The world number three now sits at 20 straight match wins and 4-0 in major semifinals.
Osaka Dominant After Slow Start
You could sense the tension with Osaka even in the warmup as she was struggling with the ball toss. The problems continued in the first service game of the match as she caught her ball toss multiple times before her first serve. An error-filled first game put the American ahead.
As Serena started to toss in some more unforced errors early on, that helped build the confidence of the 2019 Australian Open champion. From 40-15 down, Osaka fought back and broke the Williams serve and held for her first lead of the match.
From 0-2 down, the three-time major champion won five games on the bounce as she began to find her stride, especially on her groundstrokes as back-to-back winners closed out a second break of Serena.
The 23-time major champion served to stay in the set and held for 5-3, but once again, Osaka was dominant from the back of the court, closing out the set with a forehand winner.
Osaka Steadies The Tide, Wins In Straights
Osaka quickly strengthened her grip on the match with an immediate break to start the second set. She consolidated it convincingly, closing out her first service game with back-to-back aces. The American stayed within touching distance of Osaka but was still down a break so she needed to conjure up some magic if she were to stay in the match.
Out of nowhere, Osaka got tight as she missed three straight first serves, including two straight double-faults. Osaka saved two break points but another double-fault put the seven-time Australian Open back on terms in set two.
The world number three put that poor game behind her as she showed off her ability to find angles on her backhand, breaking Serena to love. She capped off the match with a hold to love and a spot in the final.