Serena Williams’ quest for Major No. 24 remains alive.
By moving well, serving big and cracking her forehand, No. 10 Williams conquered No. 2 seed Simona Halep, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to the semi finals of the Australian Open. The win was her 362nd in a major, tying Roger Federer for most all-time.
The match was played without fans as the five-day lockdown by the Victorian government continues after a recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases.
Serena’s path to a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title won’t get any easier as she will now face No. 3 Naomi Osaka, who took care of Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, 6-2, 6-2.
“Now I get to play Naomi,” Williams said in her post-match interview. “Honestly, everything is a bonus because the offseason was hard for me. I’m really excited to have gotten this far and obviously I’m going to continue and keep going.
“But it’s really amazing to still be in the tournament.”
Williams had to withdraw from the French Open last fall due to an Achilles injury first sustained at the U.S. Open. She previously said if the Australian Open had started on time last month, and hadn’t been pushed back due to the pandemic, she would not have been able to play the tournament.
Osaka leads Serena 2-1, with Osaka winning their only encounter at a Grand Slam in the in 2018 U.S. Open final. Williams is 8-0 in Australian Open semi finals. She has won seven of her 23 majors Down Under.
At 39, Williams is 16 years older than Osaka, who won last year’s U.S. Open for her third career major title.
Williams has won her last 12 matches against top-3 opponents. She could potentially have to beat the world’s top three players to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors. World No. 1 Ash Barty looms in the top half of the draw, where two other Americans, Jen Brady and Jessica Pegula, are also slated to meet in a quarterfinal. With Serena’s victory, two American women are guaranteed to make the semi finals.
The match turned in the seventh game of the second set when Williams won her sixth break point opportunity by outlasting Halep in a long rally that ended with Halep smacking a crosscourt forehand into the net.
Serena then held at love for a 5-3 lead.
She then won it on her second match point with a massive forehand winner up the line. After trailing 3-1 in the second set, Serena rattled off five straight games to win the match.
Williams said not having a crowd helps keep her anxiety levels down.
“It definitely keeps my anxiety down a lot, especially on match points because you don’t have to hear the crowd going crazy and gearing you up for the match point,” she said. “And as great as that is, it’s also like ‘Oh my god,’ I’m a little bit nervous.
“It’s kind of good to be able to play those points and close them out a little easier,” she added.
Serena came out firing on all cylinders, smacking a crosscourt forehand return winner off Halep’s serve on the first point of the match. She dominated the first set with her serve, forehand and overall movement.
Williams said that she “worked really hard on her fitness” because she had “an insane outfit that I wanted to look good in.”
“I’m a naturally good mover, I’ve been fast my whole career so when I’m not fast it’s kind of unnatural for me so it’s like I’m going back to my roots,” she said.
Williams is now two match wins away from history. She won her last Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant with her daughter Olympia.
Since then she is 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, and also lost in the semis of last year’s U.S. Open to Victoria Azarenka.