Then there have been tears. A distinguished matter of debate in Serena Williams’ post-match press convention was the essential unforced errors she dedicated throughout her straight-sets loss to Naomi Osaka. It’s not that the veteran 39-year-old hasn’t confronted robust losses earlier than, nor the questions that observe such matches, in Grand Slams or on the WTA Tour. But what maybe damage extra about this 6-3, 6-4 loss within the Australian Open semi-final is that it prolongs her seek for an all-time record equalling twenty fourth Grand Slam title.
“I don’t know,” she mentioned, tearing up, including “I’m done,” after which exited the convention.
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) February 18, 2021
As the event progressed and her performances began to enhance, echoes had began to develop that this may be the occasion the place the tenth seed would win that elusive twenty fourth Slam. In a manner, it appeared prefer it was all the time meant to occur in Australia. For it was right here, on the Rod Laver Arena in 2017 when she broke Steffi Graf’s Open Era tally of twenty-two main wins.
At the identical time although, on the opposite facet of the web she was developing in opposition to a sure third seed Naomi Osaka. The 23-year-old, usually dubbed the ‘Next Serena,’ is a power-hitter who modelled her sport on her idol. She’s already a three-time Grand Slam champion in her personal proper (beating Williams within the last of the US Open in 2018 for her first title), and together with Simona Halep, is arguably probably the most constant girls’s singles participant on the Grand Slam stage up to now 5 years.
And coming into the semi-final on Thursday morning, she had been in equally devastating kind. She additionally had an amazing record going for her – on the three events she’s reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal, she’s gone on to win it.
But within the semi-final, it wouldn’t simply come all the way down to Williams’ unforced errors that determined the match.
🚨 OSAKA ADVANCES 🚨
— ESPN (@espn) February 18, 2021
Osaka’s wavering serve
The younger Japanese struggled to register many first serves within the first set. In all, she’d handle simply 12 from 33 makes an attempt at an unenviable fee of 33 p.c. It was a harmful day to falter on the primary serve, particularly since Williams, in her earlier match in opposition to Halep, had demolished the Romanian’s second serve.
The American continued that pattern, breaking Osaka within the opening sport of the match.
There was a slight enchancment within the stats within the second set, 15 from 27 first serves in (56 p.c). But within the eight sport of the second set, Osaka, who had been main within the set until then, dropped serve.
Serving up at 4-3, in a sport that lasted six factors, Osaka managed to get in only one first serve, and conceded three factors by means of a double fault – together with the break level for Williams.
Her efficiency took an upswing when it mattered although. She obtained in all 4 first serves when she served for the match – profitable it with out dropping a degree.
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) February 18, 2021
The groundstroke battle
Former males’s World No 21 Taylor Dent had as soon as in commentary said: “First serves are to close points. Second serves are to start points.”
With Osaka’s first serves going out and in, she wanted to depend on her groundstrokes to bail her out. And the standard of her pictures did simply that.
Osaka powered again pictures Williams would cannon at her, typically with curiosity. On multiple event she would strike a backhand cross court docket winner at an inconceivable angle leaving 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur asking in commentary: “How did she do that?”
One of these pictures got here when Osaka broke Williams to go up 5-4 within the second set.
In all, Osaka would strike 20 winners to 21 unforced errors.
Meanwhile Williams had 24 unforced errors to only 12 winners – she had no forehand winners within the first set.
“The difference today was errors,” Williams mentioned after the match. “I made so many errors today. Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up 5-love. I just made so many errors.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
Anticipating Williams’ serve
Despite proudly owning an enormous serve, Williams managed simply three aces – a credit score to Osaka’s anticipation.
Jim Courier even requested Osaka about it after the match.
“I was just guessing,” got here the reply. “It’s either going this way or that way, I just have to put my foot somewhere.”
A secret it might stay, as to how Osaka was prepared to maneuver in the appropriate course each time Williams served. But then once more, she’s grown up watching her idol, and claims she likes to observe Williams play every time potential. Subconsciously maybe, she simply knew the place to be, and the way to make the return that the American would battle to discover a reply for.