Melbourne, Feb 18 (IANS) Japanese world No.3 Naomi Osaka on Thursday beat 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams at the Rod Laver Arena to reach her second Australian Open final. In the one hour and 15 minutes-match, Osaka rebounded from a poor start to beat ‘her idol’ Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to book her place in the Australian Open final.
This will be the 23-year-old World No 3’s second consecutive Grand Slam final and fourth overall.
After the match, Osaka accepted she was “nervous and scared in the beginning”.
“Then I sort of eased my way into it. For me, I think the biggest thing is just having fun and it’s the first day having the crowd in a while … it’s always an honour to play her. I just didn’t want to go out like really bad, so I just wanted to try my best.”
She added: “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 for me is a dream.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned over the years is just like, you know, you’re competitive, you’re playing against another competitor. That itself is the funnest part because tennis is a game.”
Williams’s bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will now have to wait until the French Open which is scheduled to start on May 24.
Osaka faces either Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova or USA’s Jennifer Brady, both of whom are yet to appear in the final of a Grand Slam. She has extended her winning streak to 20 matches.
Williams raced a 2-0 lead in the first set before Osaka took control. Osaka then broke Williams at the start of the second set before running off to claim her third win against the 39-year-old American in five matches.
Williams’s forehand was off the mark throughout the match as she made 24 unforced errors against Osaka’s 21. Notably, Williams made six unforced errors on return whereas her opponent made just one throughout the match.