Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

Melbourne, Australia (AP) – Once again, Serena Williams came well within reach of a record 24th Grand Slam singles title, playing well to reach the closing days of a major tournament.

And once again, Williams did not complete it – being defeated 6-3, 6-4 by Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-final on Thursday (Wednesday night EST).

Osaka, who defeated Williams in the final of the chaotic 2018 US Open, reached their fourth major title match and extended their winning rhythm to 20 matches by claiming the final eight points.

Regarding 39-year-old Williams, 23-year-old Osaka said, “I don’t know if there’s a little kid here today, but I was watching her play.” , have a dream. “

The 3-seeded Osaka Grand Slam collection also includes last year’s US Open and 2019 Australian Open and is currently the most dangerous hard-court player in women’s sports.

He used to be Williams, of course. But she was on a much higher target in this competition, with twice as many unexpected errors, 24, as winners, ending with 12.

After collecting her professional era-record 23rd major singles trophy at Melbourne Park in 2017 while pregnant, Williams has also not pulled off Margaret Court’s 24 mark for the most Grand Slam title in history.

Since returning to the tour in 2018 after having his daughter, Williams reached four big finals and lost them all. She has also lost in the semi-finals twice in that round.

At 7:30 pm local time (3:30 am EST) on Saturday, Osaka will meet the Grand Slam finalists for the championship for the first time. United States No. 22 Jennifer Brady was scheduled to face No. 25 Karolina Muchova in Thursday’s second semi-final.

A men’s semi-final was on Thursday’s schedule: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Aslan Karatsev, a Russia qualifier who is ranked 114th and playing in his first Grand Slam tournament.

Djokovic wants the ninth Australian Open title overall and the 18th Grand Slam trophy.

Rafael Nadal – who lost to Stephanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals after taking a two-set lead – and Roger Federer are tied for the men’s record of 20.

Viewers returned after being barred from participating in the tournament for five days during the local COVID-19 lockdown at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday. About 7,000 people were allowed into the stadium for Williams-Osaka, which had about half the capacity.

Ushers drove through the corridors to remind fans that they needed to wear masks or noses and mouthpieces.

On the hottest day of the hard-court tournament so far – 85 ° F (30 Celsius) – Osaka got off to a brisk start, perhaps by a stunning cross-court backhand return winner pressuring Williams in his opening service game Was successful in Second point of the match.

This was followed by a double-fault, a wild forehand and finally, a netted backhand that gave a break. Quickly, Williams led 2–0, then placed another break point after another double-fault by Osaka with a chance to lead 3–0.

Osaka said, “I was really nervous and scared, I think, in the beginning,” who was born in Japan and moved to America when he was 3. And then I kind of relaxed my way into it. . “

However, it did not take long to get right.

Suddenly, it was Osaka in power to cover the court well where he wanted it. Williams’ movement in Melbourne has been terrible, but he was suddenly flattened, his crooks rapidly gathering.

Five games went into a flash in Osaka’s column, and soon, the first set was his.

Williams’ frustration was soon made clear in the second set, when she bent over the baseline and shouted, “Make a shot! Make a shot!”

Osaka never tried to hide that she admired Williams after the American and praised his game.

Both are dedicated to the same core elements of big-work and quick-strike forehand, and not only did Osaka improve both to this day, he also gave his idol-like voice, “Shout!” After several critical shots.

Williams began to hold himself vigorously and in the second set they became deeply animated – and many on hand were excited to clap their support, clap and shout after each successful stroke.

The pull for Williams got his wish: Osaka blinked the eyelids.

A two-fault trio in a game – he wound up with eight for the match – allowed Williams to break away for 4-all.

But Oska quickly regained his composure, breaking off the love with a pair of backhand winners and a double-fault from Williams, then grabbing the love to end it.

More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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