Naomi Osaka has ended Serena Williams’ latest shot at tennis history to storm into the Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.
The Japanese superstar defeated Williams 6-3 6-4 in 75 minutes to leave Williams stranded one grand slam shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 singles majors.
Osaka out-Serena’d Serena with her brutal back-court firepower in what could only be described as a heavyweight showdown between women’s tennis’ future and the past.
Still only 23 and already with three grand slams under belt, Osaka dominated the 39-year-old in every facet after a shaky start, admitting she was nervous taking on her idol once again on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
“I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today but I was a little kid watching her play and just to be on the court playing against her is a dream,“ Osaka said.
The two titans were clashing for the first time at a grand slam since Osaka’s victory over Williams in their explosive 2018 US Open final in New York.
Seeking revenge for that bitter defeat, Williams looked to have made an early statement when she broke Osaka – who struggled with her ball toss – in the opening game of the match.
But from 2-0 down, Osaka hit the go button, reeling off five successive games with a ferocious display of heavy hitting.
“I just hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games and I was just, like, really nervous and scared in the beginning and then I sort of eased my way into it,” Osaka said.
“For me, the biggest thing is having fun and it’s the first day having a crowd in a while and, honestly, it was an honour to play her and I just didn’t want to go out really bad.
“I just wanted to try my best.”
After clinching the first set with a crunching forehand winner, Osaka claimed a third service break early in the second to retain the ascendancy and forge to a 4-2 lead.
The third seed’s only real wobble came when, with the finish line in sight, she coughed up two double-faults to gift Williams a break back in the eighth game.
But she immediately struck back, three scorching backhand winners breaking Williams once more, before serving out the match to love.
Seeking her fourth major, and second Open crown after reigning in Melbourne in 2019, Osaka will play the winner of Thursday’s second semi-final between American Jennifer Brady and Czech Karolina Muchova.