World No.3, Naomi Osaka, blitzed past her idol Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-4, to book her place in the finals of the Australian Open this weekend.
She’ll take on world No.24 Jennifer Brady for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy, who defeated Karolina Muchova earlier today 4-6 6-3 4-6.Embed from Getty Images
Osaka, who now has the chance to claim her second Australian Open title, held her nerve to defeat the 23-time grand slam champion, saying that it was “very intimidating” to see Serena Williams on the other side of the net.
“Yeah, I was definitely really nervous,” Osaka said after the match.
“It’s very intimidating to serve for the first game and see her on the other side of the net.”
“There was a point when I got broken today, and I was going up to the line to return her serve, in my head, I had all these thoughts about how she’s the best server, I’m probably not going to be able to break her. But it is what it is.“
“Then I told myself to erase those thoughts and just to, like, in a way I was telling myself I don’t care because I can only play one point at a time and I’m going to try my best to play every point as well as I can.”Embed from Getty Images
And although Osaka got off to a nervy start, conceding a break in the opening game of the match, she bounced back to secure a hard-fought double break with a ripping forehand winner to take the advantage from Williams in the opening set.
From there she rode her momentum to win the first set, and broke Williams again at the start of the second.
But Serena Williams fought back, forcing Osaka to concede several errors and hit two double faults to gift Williams a break.
“I felt like I just started making way too much-unforced errors because I was worried about what she would do if I were to hit a soft ball. “
“I think when it was like 2-0, I was just telling myself to control what I can control and try to play within myself instead of thinking about what she would do or anything like that.”
Osaka immediately bounced back, nullifying Serena Williams’ serve to break the 2017 Australian Open champion and serve out the remaining game to love to secure her second spot in the Australian Open finals.
And it looks like she’s got her eyes firmly on the championship stating “I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up. You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved.”
She’ll now face off against world No.24 Jennifer Brady, and Osaka recalled their recent semifinals match at the 2020 US Open, stating, “it was easily one of my most memorable matches. I think it was just super high quality throughout. For me, it’s not really surprising at all to see her in another semis or another finals.“
After winning her first WTA Championship in Lexington back in August, Jennifer Brady has taken her game to the next level over six months.
Reaching four semifinals in the seven tournaments she has played in, Brady has only been making positive strides and will reap the rewards of her hard work, advancing to her first grand slam final at the Australian Open.Embed from Getty Images
“It will be a really tough match, obviously, as she [Osaka] has won a few grand slams,” Brady said on this Saturday’s final.
“I remember playing her in this tournament; it may have been like a lower-level challenger event. I think she was just coming up, maybe inside the top 200, and I remember playing her. I was like, ‘Wow, she hits the ball huge. She’s going to be good.’ I mean, I was like, ‘Okay, she’s got something special.‘”
Brady herself had to hit some huge serves today to fend off advances from Karolina Muchova in what was a tight match that came down to a nail-biting third set decider.
Brady took the advantage early, breaking her opponent to go 1-2 up in the set and used her belting serve to fend off Muchova’s advances to close out the match.
But the win didn’t come easy, with Muchova putting up a final stand to force Brady to play out a mammoth 11 point final game that had six deuces and saw the Czech save four match points before Brady could take the win.Embed from Getty Images
“It took a lot longer than I hoped for,” Brady spoke after the match.
“I was just so nervous. I couldn’t feel my legs. My arms were shaking. I was just hoping she would miss, and she didn’t, and she was playing more aggressive. Then I would say I started rambling, mumbling on and on and on and on. It was just point by point, point by point, and eventually, I was able to close it out.”
Jennifer Brady is a Grand Slam finalist. 😱 Needed five 5 match points and save 3 break back points to win the final game. pic.twitter.com/U0rmfwufse— Tennis GIFs 🎾🎥 (@tennis_gifs) February 18, 2021
Brady will now advance to her first grand slam final and says she’ll be focusing on keeping her emotions in check on Saturday night.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel on Saturday. I can say I can enjoy the moment and just try to play tennis and not think too much about it, but there’s going to be moments, there’s going to be games, there’s going to be points where I’m going to be thinking about, ‘Wow, this could be my first Grand Slam title.'”
“I will definitely have those thoughts. But it’s more just trying to control the emotions, really.”
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