Two of the greatest players in history stepped on the Rod Laver Arena court in 2021, seeking a place in the Australian Open final. The Melbourne legends Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams fought against Aslan Karatsev and Naomi Osaka, respectively, in entirely different paths toward a Major title match.
Djokovic scored a commanding victory over the first-time Major semi-finalist, while Williams hit the exit door in straight sets in her last notable run at Majors! Novak defeated Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 53 minutes, firing 17 aces and losing serve twice.
The Russian qualifier could not match those numbers. He suffered six breaks and stood powerless against Novak's 30 winners and 14 unforced errors. Thus, Djokovic advanced to his ninth Australian Open final, never losing a Melbourne match after passing the quarter-final stage!
On the other hand, Serena suffered a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Osaka. The legend failed to reach the first Australian Open final since 2017, missing another chance to add the 24th Major title to her rich collection. Making too many unforced errors, Serena lost ground at 2-0 in the first and 4-4 in the second set to propel the Japanese through.
Williams burst into tears during the press conference and left it after a couple of minutes, feeling it could be her last chance to win another Major. Speaking about Serena, Novak praised the American as one of the greatest athletes ever, highlighting her legacy and feeling honored to share the tennis court in the same era with the legend.
Novak Djokovic praised Serena Williams following her 2021 Australian Open loss.
"Regardless of the years you have played on the Tour and the experience, you still feel the pressure on your shoulders. I can empathize with Serena and what she is going through.
She is such an amazing champion that inspires both male and female athletes worldwide, and what she has been doing at her age is extraordinary. I'm sure she is disappointed; I heard she was emotional during the press conference.
Regardless of all her success, I know you are frustrated and pissed off when you lose a big match. When you see a larger picture of her, who she is and what she stands for on and off the court, Serena is one of the greatest ever athletes, not just tennis players.
I'm proud and honored to be playing at the same time she does, and to see her greatness, experience her greatness, is a thrill," Novak Djokovic said.