The Japanese sets up summit clash with Jennifer Brady.
Melbourne: As Serena Williams walked off the court after her latest so-close-yet-so-far bid for a 24th Grand Slam title ended with a loss to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, the 39-year-old American paused and put her hand on her chest while thousands of spectators rose to applaud.
Was this, Williams was asked at a news conference after the 6-3, 6-4 semi final defeat, her way of saying goodbye? “If I ever say farewell,” she replied with a smile, “I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
When the next question returned the conversation to the subject of Williams’ many mistakes Thursday — twice as many unforced errors, 24, as winners, 12 — she shook her head, teared up, said, “I’m done,” and abruptly walked out of the session with reporters.
On Saturday, Osaka will meet first-time Grand Slam finalist Jennifer Brady of the United States for the championship. The 22nd-seeded Brady, who is from Pennsylvania and played college tennis at UCLA, prevailed in an epic, 18-point last game to edge No. 25 Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.
Brady dropped to her back at the baseline after saving a trio of break points, then converting her fifth match point when Muchova sent a forehand long. “My legs are shaking,” Brady said. “My heart is racing.”
She lost to Osaka in a three-set thriller in the U.S. Open semifinals last September. “Everyone’s just really excited whenever they play their first final,” Osaka noted about what awaits Brady, “but they’re also really nervous.”
Williams was hoping to get to her 34th Grand Slam final but, once again, couldn’t quite get the job done in order to add one more Grand Slam trophy to her collection of 23 and equal Margaret Court for the most in tennis history. Osaka, who also beat Williams in the chaotic 2018 U.S. Open final that concluded with the crowd booing and both women in tears, reached her fourth major title match and stretched her winning streak to 20 matches by claiming the last eight points.
Novak Djokovic reached the men’s final for the ninth time by beating No. 114-ranked Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The top-ranked Djokovic is 8-0 in his previous trips to the final at Melbourne Park. He is also unbeaten in all nine semifinals he has contested in Australia. Karatsev was the first man to reach the semifinals on his debut in a Grand Slam but his remarkable run came to an end against the biggest obstacle there is to meet on the blue court at Rod Laver Arena.
The Russian qualifier was close for the first seven games and staged a comeback from 5-1 down in the second set but otherwise Djokovic was in command. Djokovic has had an abdominal muscle problem since his second-round match but now says “this is the best as I’ve felt the entire tournament.”