Competing in her 40th Major semi-final, Serena Williams suffered her first Australian Open loss at this round. The 23-time Major champion experienced a 6-3, 6-4 defeat to a three-time Major champion Naomi Osaka in an hour and 15 minutes, propelling the Japanese into her fourth Major final since the US Open 2018.
Serena played well in the opening five rounds to beat Laura Siegemund, Nina Stojanovic, Anastasia Potapova, Aryna Sabalenka and world no. 2 Simona Halep, losing one set and playing on a high level. Serena was mighty impressive against Halep in the quarters, imposing her strokes on both serve and return with an aggressive approach and fine defense to topple the Romanian in 80 minutes.
The Japanase had to dig deep against Garbine Muguruza to gain momentum from that victory and stand too strong for Serena, especially in the crucial moments. Crashed and beaten, Williams didn't say much during the press conference, repeating she made too many easy mistakes and leaving after only a couple of minutes with tears in her eyes.
Mats Wilander believes that Serena will bounce back later this year and chase notable titles again, describing the tears and everything as a way of expressing her disappointment after losing such an important match where she had her chances.
Both players served under 50%, and Osaka provided more efficient numbers behind the first serve, defending five out of seven break chances to erase the damage in her games and earning four breaks from as many opportunities to cross the finish line first.
Serena Williams suffered a tough loss to Naomi Osaka in Melbourne.
Osaka shifted into a higher gear from 2-0 down in the opening set and claimed six of the next seven games to take 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 and sealed the deal with a hold at love for a place in the final.
"It's not the end for Serena. I think we see those tears because I think she was disappointed in the way she played. I think she had high hopes after a great start. If she got to 3-0, it could have been 4-0, then 5-0.
She was a bit unlucky, and I think she has taken a step in the right direction. For her, this is a bigger loss because she is moving and playing better, and she is still not close to Osaka. I feel that's where the emotions start - she's probably thinking, 'What do I need to do now?' To me, women's tennis has a new boss; Naomi Osaka has this capacity; she has reached another dimension," Mats Wilander said.