Sydney (dpa) – Japan’s Naomi Osaka was far too quick for Serena Williams on Thursday, taking her down in straight sets to make it through to the Australian Open final.
Osaka won 6-3, 6-4 in 75 minutes at Melbourne Park, and now has a shot at her second Australian Open crown, having won in 2019, and fourth title overall at the majors.
In the final on Saturday, third-seeded Osaka will play Jennifer Brady from the United States , who prevailed against Czech player Karolina Muchova in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach her first final at the majors.
Tenth-seed Williams, who let an early 2-0 lead slip, will have to wait until the next grand slam to continue her path to a record-equalling 24th title.
Doubts were raised about the 39-year-old’s future when a tearful Williams prematurely ended her post-match news conference after not saying whether it was her last ever appearance at Melbourne Park.
“I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Williams said.
“So … I don’t know. The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see,” an emotional Williams added.
Osaka was meanwhile happy to reach another final at the majors where she is unbeaten in her previous three deciders, the first a 2018 US Open win over Williams.
“It’s always an honour to play her and I just didn’t want to go out really bad … the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the past couple of years is you’re a competitor playing another competitor,” Osaka said in praise of her opponent.
Looking at the match, she added: “I hit a lot of unforced errors in the first couple of games. I was really nervous and sort of scared in the beginning but then I got into it and for me it’s about having fun.”
Asked about her incredible ability to predict Williams’ powerful serve, Osaka said she was guessing.
“I was just guessing you know, it’s either going this way or that way: I just gotta put my foot somewhere,” she said.
The 22nd-seeded Brady meanwhile prevailed over Muchova, who in the quarters had upset world number one and local star Ashleigh Barty, on fifth match point after a long final game in which she saved three break points.
“I can’t feel my legs. My legs are shaking, my heart is racing,” said Brady after reaching the final.
Osaka beat Brady in last year’s US Open semis en route to the title.
Spectators returned to the Australian Open on Thursday after Victoria’s five-day lockdown ended, with 7,447 allowed in for each session.
Set for later Thursday was the first men’s semi-final between world number one and eight time champion Novak Djokovic and 114th-ranked Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev.