Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Osaka outslugs Serena to reach Australian Open final

Naomi Osaka, shown at 16 in 2014, improved to 3-1
against Serena Williams. Osaka will meet Jennifer Brady
for the Australian Open title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Showdown? What showdown?
   In a much-anticipated match, third-seeded Naomi Osaka outslugged 10th-seeded Serena Williams 6-3, 6-4 tonight to reach the Australian Open final in Melbourne.
   Williams, a seven-time Australian Open champion, fell short for the 11th time in her attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. 
   Williams, 39, put her hand over her heart as she said goodbye to the crowd, leading to speculation that this was her last Australian Open.
   "If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone," Williams — who won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford in 2011, 2012 and 2014 — said in her post-match news conference before walking off in tears.
   Osaka, 23, of Japan improved to 3-1 against Williams, including a victory in the contentious 2018 U.S. Open final.
  The 2019 Australian Open champion, Osaka is scheduled to meet 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN in a rematch of their U.S. Open semifinal last September. Osaka triumphed 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 en route to the title. She is 2-0 against Brady at the tour level.
   Brady, 25, beat 25th-seeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam final.
   Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014. Brady starred in Northern California Challengers, sweeping the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and advancing to the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to Sofia Kenin
   In the first men's semifinal, top-ranked Novak Djokovic eliminated qualifier Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic, seeking his ninth Australian Open singles title, will play the winner of the Friday, 12:30 a.m. (PST) match between fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev and fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas on ESPN.
   Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Rajeev Ram, a 36-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, reached the mixed doubles final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Australian wild cards Storm Sanders and Marc Polmans.
   Krejcikova and Ram will meet either unseeded Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain or Australian wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden.
   Krejcikova eyes her third consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles crown after triumphing with Ram in 2019 and Nikola Mektic of Croatia last year.

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