Serena Williams came through a huge test of her Australian Open tennis title credentials to beat Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 in a high quality quarter-final and reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the ninth time yesterday.
The 39-year-old American went toe-to-toe with the Romanian second seed over 80 engrossing minutes on Rod Laver Arena before she was finally able to move to within two victories of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
Williams, who mixed 24 winners with 33 unforced errors over the contest, has not won a major since her seventh Australian Open triumph in 2017 and next faces in-form Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka with a place in the final on the line.
“I think this is the best match I played this tournament,” said Williams, who moved well and hit 24 winners.
For Halep, who reached the semi-finals last year and was losing finalist in 2018, it was back to the drawing board as she looks to add to her two Grand Slam titles at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Now Osaka will face Williams — a seven-time champion in Melbourne — tomorrow for a place in Saturday’s final.
It will be the first meeting between the pair since their infamous 2018 US Open final.
That saw Osaka win her maiden major title after Williams accused umpire Carlos Ramos of being a “thief” in some of the most dramatic scenes at a Grand Slam final.
The brute force of Osaka crushed the artistry of Hsieh Su-wei as the Japanese former champion charged into the Australian Open semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-2 win yesterday.
On a warm and muggy day at Rod Laver Arena, Osaka attacked Hsieh’s weak serve with gusto and the Taiwanese giantkiller quickly wilted under the pressure of her Grand Slam quarter-final debut.
Osaka had a torrid time in her last Australian Open clash with Hsieh in 2019, having to come back from a set and a break down on the way to claiming the championship.
So the Japanese third seed was thrilled with her form against the Taiwanese maverick in a 66-minute clinic.
“Yeah, definitely really happy,” 23-year-old Osaka said on-court.
“Really happy with how I played today. Every time I play her it’s a real battle and, despite the score, this was again a real battle today.” Osaka’s reward will be a semi-final against Serena Williams.
“I always watch Serena’s matches, anyway,” said Osaka, who has never failed to win a Grand Slam after making the quarter-finals.
“Definitely going to be real fun.”
Hsieh, 35, bowed out after a stellar tournament, having become the oldest women’s player to debut in a Grand Slam quarter-final in the professional era.
The improbable angles conjured by her double-handed, double-sided game had Osaka in some trouble early, but Hsieh was unable to convert any of the three break points she raised in the opening games of the first set.
Osaka quashed the first of them in the opening game with an ace down the “T” before smashing Hsieh’s defences with a blazing backhand down the line to break to 3-1.
After holding on grimly through a 14-point game to hold serve, Osaka raised the pressure when Hsieh served to stay in the set at 5-2 and sealed it when the Taiwanese slapped a limp backhand wide. — AFP.