Serena v Osaka: Power-hitters clash in blockbuster Australian Open semifinal

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When the Australian Open draw was made on February 5, the second half of the ladies’s singles draw attracted intrigue. And because the matches got here and went, and as Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams went about their enterprise dominating the tennis court docket, it was clear that it was not going to be a matter of ‘if,’ however moderately ‘when’ the 2 titans of girls’s tennis meet in the semi-final.

Sure there was the prospect of World No 2 Simona Halep – a title contender in her personal proper – disrupting the narrative by defeating Williams in the quarterfinal – you might argue that it was an ‘upset’ if the Romanian did win that match.

But definitely it will have denied one other thrilling chapter in this most respectful rivalry between a legend and an apprentice as soon as dubbed the ‘Next Serena’; the 2 most recognisable tennis gamers on the planet right now.

“If it happens, then I’m sure a lot of people will be excited,” Osaka had mentioned earlier than Williams performed Halep on Tuesday.

And when Williams took to Rod Laver Arena and beat Halep in what was, by her personal admission, one of the best match she performed to date in this match. It assured that the fourth clash between Williams and Osaka – the second ever at a Grand Slam (the primary was when Osaka received the US Open title in 2018) – got here at a time when each have hit their stride.

The solely disappointment for followers is that they won’t get the ultimate that they’d hoped to see, however they’ll get a semi-final they needed when the draw was made.

Heavy hitters

In most respects, each their video games are comparable. The 39-year-old Williams has lengthy been one of the vital highly effective gamers on tour. She has an enormous serve and equally large groundstrokes that complement her all-round attacking sport that has seen her win an Open Era file 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

Osaka in the meantime, grew up modelling her personal skill-set primarily based on the participant she has idolised from an early age.

So far each have received 79 per cent factors on their first serves. And the nice and cozy Melbourne circumstances anticipated on Thursday, aided by the quick Australian Open courts – will merely propel the hard-hitting duo.

Osaka leads 2-1 head-to-head

The first time they met was in the primary spherical of the 2018 Miami Open. Williams was enjoying in solely her second match since returning to the tour after giving delivery to a child lady. Osaka received that tie 6-3, 6-2 towards a clearly rusty American.

They met once more, six months later in the controversial US Open remaining, which Osaka once more received in straight units.

Williams pulled one again in Toronto in 2019, profitable 6-3, 6-4.

Osaka unbeaten after reaching quarterfinals at majors

So far, the 23-year-old Japanese participant has reached the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam thrice – on the 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open. She went on to win the title on every event.

She’ll hope to proceed in that vein to earn her fourth title, however she has by no means confronted a Serena working at such a high-level.

Williams chasing her twenty fourth

For all her achievements and historic successes, Williams has now entered a fourth 12 months in her pursuit of Margaret Court’s all-time file of most Grand Slam singles titles.

Williams overtook Steffi Graf’s Open Era file of twenty-two main wins when she received the 2017 Australian Open title – beating elder sister Venus in the ultimate.

She went on maternity go away after that and returned to the tour over a 12 months later. Her starvation for the elusive twenty fourth Slam hasn’t diminished, and he or she’s been near reaching it 4 occasions.

In 2018, she reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals, dropping to Angelique Kerber and Osaka respectively. A 12 months later, she reached the ultimate of the identical majors, dropping to Halep (Wimbledon) and Bianca Andreescu (US Open).

Now she’s gunning for a fifth remaining.

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