Australian Open: Naomi Osaka Ousts Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Australian Open: Naomi Osaka Ousts Serena Williams

Osaka won the semifinal in straight sets, denying Williams a chance to tie the record for Grand Slam singles titles.

Australian Open: Naomi Osaka Ousts Serena Williams – The New York Times

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Naomi Osaka Stopped Serena Williams and Her Latest Grand Slam Record Hopes

Osaka won their Australian Open semifinal in straight sets, denying Williams a chance to tie the record for Grand Slam singles titles.

Serena Williams congratulated Naomi Osaka warmly but began to cry during her post-match news conference.Credit…Andy Brownbill/Associated Press

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Feb. 18, 2021Updated 9:46 a.m. ET

MELBOURNE, Australia — Naomi Osaka knocked Serena Williams out of the Australian Open on Thursday, but in relentlessly moving her from side to side on the court, did she also push Williams closer to retirement? After her 6-3, 6-4 defeat to Osaka in the semifinals, Williams left the Rod Laver Arena court to a standing ovation, which she recognized with a wave of her hand and a tapping of her heart.

After 20 Australian Opens, was Williams saying goodbye to a country of tennis fans that she described as “so amazing”?

“If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone,” she said in her post-match news conference, smiling weakly. “So ….” Her voice trailed off.

Williams already had bemoaned her 18 unforced errors, including 10 on her forehand, considered one of the fiercest strokes in the women’s game.

, she dismissed a runner-up prize on the shelf in her trophy room, saying she’d have to “put that one in the trash” because “we don’t keep second place” awards.

Over the past three years, Williams’s love for tennis and the joy she finds in competition have carried her through a pectoral injury, knee injuries and a left Achilles’ injury. She rededicated herself to the arduous — her word — task of improving her fitness, and where has it gotten her but on the wrong end of score lines in slugfests against considerably younger opponents like Osaka, 23, who fashioned her game after that of Williams, her childhood idol?

that she unveiled at this tournament, while stylish, also served a more important functional role as a compression garment. She continues to deal with circulation issues. There are days, she acknowledged after her 6-3, 6-0 victory against Nina Stojanovic, when her right foot swells and it is so painful that she puts off until the last possible moment slipping on her shoe and tying the laces.

Between the tape job on her swollen right foot and the tape job on her injured left ankle, “I’m basically wearing a cast on both my feet,” Williams said.

The difficulty of standing on the precipice of history, as Williams has for the past four years, is focusing on the here and now under circumstances like those on Thursday, when she was so close to the milestone that she could almost hear her name being carved into the game’s annals.

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