The highly anticipated women’s singles semi-final at Rod Laver Arena had a noticeable buzz from crowds returning to the stands for the first time after a five-day lockdown, the result of a small coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne which led the state government to impose a Covid snap-19 containment measures.
Osaka won the match 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the Australian Open final for the second time. She has now won 20 straight games, her last loss in February of last year.
“I don’t know if there are little kids here today, but I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka said of Williams on the court after the win. “Just being on the pitch playing against her for me is a dream.”
Williams, 39, hugged Osaka after the game. She then waved to the crowd as she left, putting a hand to her heart.
Williams was asked at a post-game press conference whether the gesture meant goodbye.
“I don’t know. If I ever say goodbye, I won’t tell anyone, then,” she said.
Visibly moved, Williams left the press conference after the next question.
After the press conference, Williams posted the following on Instagram: “Melbourne and my Australian fans – Today was not the ideal outcome or performance, but it does happen … I am so honored to be able to play in front all of you. Your support – your cheers, I only wish I could have done better for you today. I am forever in debt and grateful to all of you. I love you. I love you. I am forever in debt and grateful to all of you. love you. I adore you. “
Williams’ last major title was at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant. This is his first Australian Open semi-final loss, having been 8-0 at this point in the tournament.
Osaka, the reigning US Open champion and winner of the 2019 Australian Open, is undefeated in the quarterfinals, semi-finals and Grand Slam finals. All of his career titles – including his three major titles – have come on hard courts. She now has a career record of 3-1 against Williams, including when she beat Williams in the infamous 2018 US Open final.
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Osaka is the big favorite in Saturday’s final. She will face 22nd seed Jennifer Brady of the United States, who beat 25th seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the second semi-final. In their last meeting, the US Open semi-finals five months ago, Osaka beat Brady 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3.
At 25, it will be Brady’s first grand finale.
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