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Osaka shatters Williams history bid to make Australian Open final

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Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Japan’s Naomi Osaka during their women’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 18, 2021. AFP

Melbourne, Australia (AFP) – Naomi Osaka said she was  mentally stronger than ever after emphatically ending Serena Williams’s latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown Thursday.

The Japanese third seed swept past the American veteran 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Australian Open final in front of thousands of fans after Melbourne lifted a snap five-day lockdown.

She will face Jennifer Brady on Saturday for a fourth Slam title after the American beat Czech Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“I think for me, match experience definitely helped me out,” said Osaka, who reeled off five games in a row in the opening set after going 2-0 down.

“There was a point when I got broken today… 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.

“Then I told myself to erase those thoughts and 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.”

“For me, I think the thing that I’m most proud of is now mentally strong I’ve become,” added Osaka, whose previous Grand Slam successes came at Flushing Meadows in 2018 and last year, and Melbourne in 2019.

The victory left Williams, who won her last major in Melbourne in 2017, stranded on 23 Grand Slam titles as she strives to match Margaret Court’s all-time record.

Since winning while pregnant in Australia four years ago, Williams has lost four Slam finals, including the controversial and heated 2018 US Open decider against Osaka.

“The difference today was errors. I made so many errors,” said the American veteran, who broke down in tears and walked out of a post-match press conference.

 

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