The 23-time Major winner Serena Williams played her best tournament of the season at the Australian Open in February, defeating five rivals to advance into the 40th Major semi-final. Never losing in the semi-final round in Melbourne before, Serena experienced a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Naomi Osaka in an hour and 15 minutes, propelling the opponent into the title clash and missing a chance to fight for that elusive 24th Major crown.
Serena played well in the opening five rounds, beating Laura Siegemund, Nina Stojanovic, Anastasia Potapova, Aryna Sabalenka and world no. 2 Simona Halep in style, losing one set and playing on the highest level since she returned to tennis in 2018.
Serena was impressive against Halep two days before facing Osaka, defending well and dominating with her sharp groundstrokes to topple the Romanian in 80 minutes and set the mouthwatering clash against the young gun. The Japanese survived a tough challenge against Garbine Muguruza and gained momentum, seeking the fourth Major title and proving too strong for Serena.
Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka in straight sets at the Australian Open.
Crashed and down, Serena could not say much during the press conference, repeating how she made too many easy mistakes and leaving with tears in her eyes after only a couple of minutes.
Both players served under 50%, and Osaka provided more efficient numbers behind the first serve. The younger player defended five out of seven break chances and secured four breaks from as many opportunities to find herself in the title match.
Naomi shifted into a higher gear from 2-0 down in the opening set and claimed six of the next seven games to grab the opener 6-3. Serena pulled the break back at 3-4 in set number two to prolong the action before Naomi seized a break at love with a backhand winner a few minutes later and sealed the deal with a hold at love.
"I do not know. If I ever say farewell, I would not tell anyone. I'm done. The difference today was errors, as I made so many of them. Honestly, there were opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up 5-0 in front, but I made too many mistakes.
I felt like I was hitting well this whole tournament - even the first couple of games. I played well and had my chances after that. Yeah, so it was – I do not know, just too many easy mistakes, not like there were forced or anything," Serena Williams said.