Osaka reached her fourth major final by beating Williams 6-3, 6-4 to stretch her winning streak to 20 matches
Once again, Serena Williams came within reach of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, playing well enough to get to the closing days of a major tournament.
And once again, Williams couldn’t quite get it done — beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.
Osaka, who also beat Williams in the chaotic 2018 U.S. Open final, reached her fourth major title match and stretched her winning streak to 20 matches by claiming the last eight points.
“I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka, 23, said about Williams, 39, “and just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream.
The No. 3-seeded Osaka’s Grand Slam collection also includes last year’s U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open and she is, without a doubt, the most dangerous hard-court player in the women’s game at the moment.
That used to be Williams, of course. But she was off-target too much in this contest, finishing with twice as many unforced errors, 24, as winners, 12.
After collecting her professional era-record 23rd major singles trophy at the Melbourne Park in 2017 while pregnant, Williams has not been able to pull even with Margaret Court’s mark of 24 for the most Grand Slam titles in history.
Since returning to the tour in 2018 after having her daughter, Williams has reached four major finals and lost them all. She’s also now lost in the semifinals twice in that span.
On Saturday, Osaka will meet a first-time Grand Slam finalist for the championship. No. 22 Jennifer Brady of the United States was scheduled to face No. 25 Karolina Muchova in Thursday’s second semifinal.
One men’s semifinal was on Thursday’s schedule: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Aslan Karatsev, a qualifier from Russia who is ranked 114th and playing in his first Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic is seeking a ninth Australian Open title and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall.
Rafael Nadal — who lost in the quarterfinals to Stefanos Tsitsipas after blowing a two-set lead — and Roger Federer are tied for the men’s record of 20.
Spectators were back in the stands at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday after they were barred from attending the tournament for five days during a local COVID-19 lockdown. About 7,000 people were allowed into the stadium for Williams-Osaka, roughly half of capacity.
Ushers walked through the aisles at changeovers to remind fans they needed to wear a mask or over their nose and mouth.