(CNN) – Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams on Thursday at the Australian Open in Melbourne and denied her a chance to equal Australia’s Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles.
The highly anticipated women’s singles semi-final at Rod Laver Arena saw crowds return to the stands for the first time after a five-day lockdown, the result of a small outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne that prompted the state government to impose containment measures. immediate.
Osaka won the match 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the Australian Open final for the second time. Now he has won 20 consecutive games. His last defeat was in February of last year.
“I don’t know if there are little kids here today, but I was a little girl watching her play,” Osaka said of Williams on the court after the win. “For me, being on the court playing against her is a dream.”
Williams, 39, hugged Osaka after the match. He then greeted the crowd as he left, putting a hand over his heart.
Williams was asked at a post-game press conference if the gesture signified a goodbye.
“I dont know. If I ever say goodbye, I would not tell anyone, “he said.
Visibly excited, Williams left the press conference after the next question.
After the press conference, Williams posted the following on Instagram: “Melbourne and my Australian fans: Today was not the ideal result or performance, but it happens… I am so honored to be able to play in front of all of you. Your support – your applause, I just wish I had done better today. I am forever indebted and grateful to each and every one of you. I love them. I love them. I love them. I adore you”.
Williams’ last big title was at the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant. This is his first loss in an Australian Open semi-final. He was previously 8-0 at that stage of the tournament.
Osaka, the reigning US Open champion and 2019 Australian Open winner, is undefeated in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and Grand Slam finals. All of his career titles, including his big three, have come on hard courts. He now has a 3-1 record against Williams, including when he defeated Williams in the remarkable final of the 2018 US Open.
Osaka is the big favorite in the final on Saturday. She will face 22nd seed Jennifer Brady of the United States, who defeated 25th seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the second semifinal. In their last meeting, in the US Open semifinals five months ago, Osaka defeated Brady 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3.
At age 25, this will be Brady’s first big final.