Naomi Osaka emphatically ended Serena Williams’s latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown with a straight-sets demolition in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.
The Japanese third seed swept past the American veteran 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena in front of thousands of fans allowed back in after Melbourne lifted a snap five-day lockdown.
She will face either American Jennifer Brady who beat Karolina Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4 on Saturday for a fourth Slam title after her success at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and last year, and Melbourne in 2019.
The victory left Williams, who won her last major in Melbourne in 2017, stranded on 23 Grand Slam titles as she strives to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.
Since winning while pregnant in Australia four years ago, Williams has lost four Slam finals, including one to Osaka in a controversial and heated 2018 US Open decider which left both women in tears.
“I hit a lot of unforced errors in the first few games, I was just really nervous and scared,” said Osaka, who reeled off five games in a row in the opening set after going 2-0 down.
“But then I sort of eased my way into it and the biggest thing for me was having fun.”
“For me, it’s always an honour to play her and I didn’t want to go out (of the tournament) really bad, so I just tried my best,” she added.