Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will lock horns in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday morning – their first Grand Slam meeting since their infamous US Open showdown in 2018.
Williams is bidding to claim a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne, and she stormed into the last four with a dominant straight-sets win over second seed Simona Halep.
The 39-year-old is remarkably set to feature in her 40th Grand Slam semi-final, yet she faces another stern examination against 2019 champion Osaka.
The third seed has never failed to win a Grand Slam after reaching the quarter-finals, and she’s been in imperious form in 2021 thus far, stretching her winning streak to 19 matches with an emphatic 6-2 6-2 success over Hsieh Su-wei.
The 23-year-old survived match points against Garbine Muguruza, but that’s been the only blemish in her otherwise flawless progression, as she targets a fourth Grand Slam crown.
Serena is without a Grand Slam title since defeating her sister Venus in Melbourne four years ago, but she’s rolled back the years over the last fortnight, with improved footwork the catalyst behind her success.
The pair have met on four occasions, sharing two victories apiece, although their infamous Flushing Meadows clash dominates the narrative between two of the game’s protagonists.
Although there was no animosity between the pair, their 2018 showdown remains notorious. Williams received a game penalty for verbally abusing umpire Carlos Ramos and Osaka’s first major title was overshadowed by deafening boos and whistles.
The latest instalment promises to be fascinating. Williams dominated her quarter-final against Halep due to a combination of power and improbable angles, although Osaka also possesses heavy artillery of her own.
Serena has won all eight of her previous Australian Open semi-finals, yet every time Osaka has progressed beyond the last eight at a Grand Slam, she’s picked up the title. Something has to give.