Naomi Osaka shook off a slow start to beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinals in straight sets (6-3, 6-4) on Thursday in Melbourne. The world’s No. 3 player now has a chance to win her fourth Grand Slam title at age 23.
Williams, meanwhile, absorbed her first loss in the semifinal round of this tournament (falling to 8-1 all-time) and missed another opportunity to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 major victories.
Here are three thoughts on the match, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes and felt even shorter.
Is the 24th Grand Slam out of reach?
For the past 20 years, you doubted Serena at your own risk. So you can’t say this was his last chance at 24th. But this was his last. better chance.
Many things were being prepared for him; the event was three weeks later than scheduled, giving him a few extra weeks to deal with pesky injuries. The lack of a crowd probably worked to her advantage, even though they were behind her as the end approached. To his credit, he improved his mobility at 39; This is the best thing she has ever moved after motherhood. But this will be a disappointment. You start to think: if not now, when?
He will still be 39 at Wimbledon. But now more than four years have passed since his last major. You can see that Osaka is 16 years younger than her. Eventually, Michael Jordan was unable to roll over like he used to. This is the time to do your thing. Tom Brady’s last pass as Patriot was a pick-six. Serena is 39 years old, but she is still beating the top 3 players and reaching these last rounds. There are definitely reasons for disappointment, but also hope.
Serena’s right hand fails her
Mistakes are what will disappoint her. She had a 2-0 lead in the first set, her opponent was nervous. Then Osaka won six of seven to win the set. Osaka made Serena seek more margin than other players.
Serena is testing what it was like to face her for so many years, with that unstoppable serve and that shot. Serena made too many mistakes, forced and unforced, against such a good player (16 unforced in the first setalone). That’s what will sting; sometimes your opponent plays too well. In this case, Serena was also at fault.
Rise of Osaka
Osaka is a fascinating character, full of humility and respect. She has this self-critical nature. But once the ball is in play, she is simply a killer.
She is completely in competition with her personality in the sense that she would want to be so respectful to Serena that she wouldn’t want to look at her and give her 20 feet of space during the change. Then once the game starts, the ball goes at 120 miles per hour.
Obviously, it’s a momentous match for Serena. It’s history, he’s four sets off the record. But the flip side is seeing the rise of Osaka. She is becoming the new Serena. He’s one game away from the fourth major and he’s only 23 years old. He is now 11-0 once he reaches the quarterfinals of a major. She is an accelerating talent, and in the final she will face an opponent who is outside the top 20. So anything can happen, but this could well have been the final.
If we are seeing the decline of Serena, we are also seeing the rise of a new star in Osaka.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.