2021 Australian Open: What to Watch For in Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka’s Semifinal
The Australian Open semi-finals begin on Wednesday night, with a match between 10th seeded Serena Williams of the United States and third seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan. This will be their first Grand Slam meet since the final of the 2018 United State Open, with Osaka winning Three penalties from the chair umpire.
The winner will face the winner of the second semi-final match: between No. 25 Karolina Munova of the Czech Republic and No. 22 Jennifer Brady of the United States.
What to watch for in this match, which will start at 10 a.m. Eastern at Rod Laver Arena.
Can Williams Stop?
Williams, 39, began his career as the greatest close player at the end of Grand Slam events. In his first 28 visits to the Grand Slam semi-finals, he won the title 21 times. But dating back to her shocking loss to Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open semi-finals, Williams struggled to wrap up a slam win, winning the title twice in only 11 trips to a semifinal.
Since his win at the 2017 Australian Open, Williams has held 23 Grand Slam titles, one of the highest plateaus in the history of the game. Although she already holds a career record for Grand Slam titles in the Open era, which began in 1968, Williams has long been an eye on Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles.
The 23-year-old Osaka, who grew up recognizing Williams, has been unkind in closing a Grand Slam win early in his career. Osaka has scored the last three Grand Slam quarter-finals; Each time, he won the tournament. Reaching the semifinals this week, Osaka improved their record to 10–0 in Grand Slam events over the last three rounds.
Osaka entered the semi-finals against Williams, whom they defeated in two of three meetings, winning 19 consecutive matches, the longest streak of their careers. His last loss was a year ago, in a Fed Cup match in February.
Williams gets defensive.
The last three Osaka matches against Williams came in 2018 after Williams returned from maternity leave. Osaka would never have seen Williams leave this week.
Williams later joked His quarterfinal win Second seed Simona Halep said she was inspired to get in shape by the form-fitting catsuits she knew she would have to wear in Melbourne’s court. His improved conditioning is reflected in his leg movements, which allowed him to extend the rallies in a way to make breathtaking defenses and try in recent years.
Osaka, who can match Williams for power, will not be able to rely on an advantage in leg speed as he had in his previous meetings.
Osaka and Williams advance to the finals of the 2018 US Open.
Williams landed in chaos in the finals of the 2018 US Open as Williams increased the penalty from the chair umpire Carlos Ramos Angry beating the crowd at Arthur Ash Stadium, for repeated code violations. Osaka was shedding tears after the match, And some criticized Williams for ruining the moment.
But despite the opportunities to do so if he had wished, Osaka would never have publicly blamed Williams for any aspect of that day’s scuffle. There has not always been a warm relationship between Williams and young up-comers (see: Sloane Stephens), but she has always had an appreciation for Osaka.
Both have been on good terms since the 2018 US Open, and played an exhibition match in Adelaide last month.
“I think he’s a great competitor and he’s a quiet cat,” Williams said of Osaka on Tuesday.
All coverage will air in the United States on ESPN2 from 9pm to 6pm; Streaming is available on the ESPN + and ESPN3 apps. Here are the other semi-final matchups.
Novak Djokovic vs Aslan Kartsev
Top seed Novak Djokovic had a health scare in his third round win over 27th seed Taylor Fritz, injuring his stomach as they slipped through the third set on the middle of the court. Visually struggling, Djokovic needed five sets to win over Fritz.
Despite lingering concerns, and Djokovic said the injury would have forced him out of the tournament, it was not a significant Grand Slam event, with Djokovic defeating No. 14 Milos Raonic and number one in his latter two matches. Have played well 6 Alexander Zverev both in four sets.
His next opponent is a far less familiar: Aslan Karatsev, a Russian who is playing in his first Grand Slam main draw at the age of 27, and has turned into the sport Cinderella story of the incident.
Karattsev, who qualified for the Australian Open after winning three matches in a qualifying event in Qatar last month, has used clean, powerful groundstrokes from both wings to separate players including No. 8 Diego Schwartzman and No. 1 Felix Auger-Alissim . Karatsev entered the semi-finals after his quarterfinal opponent, No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov, was limited by back paces.
Djokovic should be expected to move comfortably when he is healthy, but if he is not, none of the players have proved quite as good as Karatsev.
Karolina Muchova vs Jennifer Brady
Although certainly an undercard to the predecessor Osaka-Williams clash, the semi-final between Karolina Muchova and Jennifer Brady could also prove to be compelling.
Mukova, an all-court player, was able to beat many opponents playing near his top form, Top seed Ashley Barty in quarterfinals. After battling the heat and taking a medical timeout during the match, Mustova continued to dominate the latter stages, remaining steady and purposeful on his powerful forehand until Barty’s game progressed.
For Brady, whose game is built more around power from the baseline, the run in Australia is a consolidation of his strong effort last summer when he won a WTA tournament in Lexington, Ky., And reached the semi-finals of the US Open , where. She lost to Osaka. Brady spent 14 days in tough quarantine before the tournament began, and she was the only player in those situations to reach the fourth round of the women’s singles.