It was a match that reminded many of the 2018 US Open as Naomi Osaka faced off against Serena Williams. The first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam singles title, she has since won a Grand Slam singles title for three consecutive years. Now, in 2021, Osaka stands poised to add yet another title to her growing collection, having defeated Williams 6-3, 6-4 to reach her second Australian Open final.
On Thursday, Osaka put an end to Serena Williams bid to clinch a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title, coming back strongly from a few initial hiccups to win the the first set. She also clinched the second set. Osaka will face either Jennifer Brady or Karolina Muchova in the final match, depending on the outcome of their semi-final match.
"I was a little kid watching her (Williams) play, and just to be on the court playing against her, for me is a dream," Osaka was quoted as saying after her win on Thursday.
Seven-time Australian Open champion Williams had been 8-0 in Australian Open semifinals over her legendary career, but took her first loss in this round Down Under against Osaka. Williams, playing her milestone 20th Australian Open, was unable to reach her 34th Grand Slam final and ninth Australian Open final after the defeat.
Many now speculate that this might be the end of Williams' illustrious career. While some spoke about how she had appeared to salute the crowd with her hand over her heart after the match, others quoted excerpts from her post-match remarks.
According to reports, she had also left the press conference in tears w hile attempting to respond to a question about unforced errors she had made through the match. "I don’t know... I’m done," she said tearfully, leaving the press room.
Asked if she was saying goodbye to the sport with her final on-court gesture, Williams remained somewhat vague. “I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone, so..." she said.