Serena Williams was in rare form during her run through the 2021 Australian Open after knocking off former world No. 1 Simona Halep, 6-3, 6-3 to set up Thursdays (Feb.18) semifinal matchup with Noami Osaka. The showdown between the professional tennis titans would be Williams’ 40th Grand Slam semifinal.
Osaka extinguished Williams’ fire defeating her in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. The tennis phenom efficiently took down Williams with 20 winners compared to Serena’s 12. Williams looked good on the court but couldn’t keep pace with Osaka, who was clearly on her game during the matchup.
Following the match, Osaka praised Williams during her post-game interview stating, “Just to be on the court playing against her, for me is a dream.”
When asked about defending Williams’ legendary serve, Osaka gave a hilarious but honest answer “Oh … I was just guessing.”
Williams was just as gracious in defeat, sharing a hug with Osaka at the net before walking off the court to a well-deserved standing ovation, waving to the fans in the crowd with her hand on her heart.
In an Instagram post following the match, Williams thanked her fans and spoke on her performance, writing in the caption:
“Melbourne and my Australian fans- Today was not an ideal outcome or performance but it happens… I am so honored to be able to play in front of you all.”
“Your support -your cheers, I only wish I could have done better for you today,” she continued. “I am forever in debt and grateful to each and every single one of you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I adore you.”
Williams’s emotions would finally pour out during her post-game press conference while trying to answer questions about her defeat at Naomi Osaka’s hands after one reporter asked if she had a “bad day at the office” due to all of the unforced errors. Williams responded, “I don’t know,” while visibly choking up, announcing “I’m done,” while the tears flowed and abruptly ending the interview.
While Williams is no stranger to losing, she understandably took this defeat very hard. It’s also tough to do an interview immediately following a devastating defeat. The last Grand Slam Title win for Williams came at the 2017 Australian Open, while she was 2 months pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian. She would return to the tennis court in 2018 following a difficult pregnancy and would go on to compete in 11 Grand Slam tournaments advancing to the semifinals or finals in six of them.
Serena Willaims and Naomi Osaka have faced each other several times. Osaka beat Williams for the first time in the 2018 Miami Open. Then the 2018 US Open win was marred by some controversy because of Williams’ “verbal altercation” with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after he hit her with three separate on-court violations. Williams would get her revenge against Osaka at the 2019 Rogers Cup.
It would be a pretty safe bet to assume Osaka and Williams will meet again on the tennis court. Osaka will face 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady for the championship on Saturday. We will definitely be locked in for that.
Photo: DAVID GRAY / Getty