"I know that everyone was cheering for [Serena Williams] and I'm sorry it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match."

Naomi Osaka's first grand slam title was memorable for all the wrong reasons - the Japanese left in tears after defeating her idol Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final.

Williams was penalised for receiving coaching, slamming her racquet and then arguing with the chair umpire, which cost the 23-time slam champion a game in the second set.

The mood on Arthur Ashe Stadium turned bitter as fans booed during the trophy ceremony.

"I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there," Osaka told the 'Today' show a day after the final. "I know that it wasn't really – the ending wasn't how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don't know. I just felt very emotional. I felt like I had to apologise.

"I felt a little bit sad, because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted. I also could sympathise, because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life, and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win."

Almost three years on and three further slam titles later, that softly-spoken Osaka is now a ruthless machine, just ask Williams.

En route to a fourth slam crown and second Australian Open trophy on Saturday, Osaka overpowered the 23-time major champion in the semi-finals, stopping her ongoing record-equalling quest flat in its tracks.

The queen of women's tennis for so long, Williams could not find a way to beat Osaka.

The here and now, Osaka continues to be Williams' kryptonite in the American superstar's bid match Margaret Court. It could explain why Serena was left in tears and cut short her post-match news conference.

There appears to be no way past Osaka.

Usually timid away from the action, Osaka is ferocious on court but just as calm - her triumphant 2021 Australian Open campaign further proof of that, having saved a pair of match points in the last 16 before topping Jennifer Brady on Rod Laver Arena, where she became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career. 

Lets not forget her anti-racism statements during the last year's US Open. The 23-year-old regularly wore masks onto court to protest against racial injustice in the United States. Osaka's off-court impact is just as powerful across the globe.

As the sun begins to fade on the career of an all-time great, Osaka has the world at her feet in an exciting new era for women's tennis.

An elated Naomi Osaka described playing a grand slam amid the health pandemic as a "super privilege" after outclassing Jennifer Brady to win the Australian Open for a second time.

The Japanese third seed completed a 6-4 6-3 triumph on Rod Laver Arena to become the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka's latest two triumphs in New York and now Melbourne have come amid the coronavirus pandemic, although fans were in attendance for this victory.

The 23-year-old paid tribute to her beaten opponent, who she also defeated at Flushing Meadows, while revelling in another slam success.

"We played in the semis at the US Open a couple of months ago. I told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a problem, and I was right," Osaka said at the post-match presentation.

"My team is like my family so I'm sure you guys will have a lot of adventures together. I know your friends and your family are very proud of you and we're going to play a lot more matches, so get used to that!

"It feels really incredible for me. Just to have this energy [from fans], it really means a lot. Thank you so much for coming.

"Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms towards us. Playing a grand slam right now is a super privilege and I don't take this for granted."

Brady, seeded 22nd, was playing in the first slam final of her career against Osaka, and labelled the former world number one an "inspiration" to every player on the tour.

"Firstly I'd like to congratulate Naomi. She's such an inspiration to us all and what she's doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls at home are watching are inspired by what she's doing," Brady said.

"I'd like to congratulate her team. You're obviously doing something special and she's getting better every day.

"I'd like to say thanks to my team. Without you guys I wouldn't be standing here tonight. Thank you for everything you've done for me and let's keep going for more.

"Mom, I know you're watching right now in front of the TV, probably crying, so... it was special to play in front of fans. Tonight, it wasn't meant to be, but hopefully there's many more."

Naomi Osaka made history after seeing off Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the Australian Open final for her fourth grand slam crown.

Osaka's big-match experience was telling against first-time finalist Brady in warm conditions, the former world number one reeling off six consecutive games after breaking at 4-4 in the first set to set the tone at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Japanese star Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka - who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park - also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

Fans were treated to a topsy-turvy opening on Rod Laver Arena, in a rematch of the 2020 US Open semi-final, which Osaka won en route to her third slam title.

Osaka appeared to be on track for a commanding first set, cruising through the opening service game to love before breaking her opponent to love following a double-fault for a 3-1 lead.

Looking rushed in her maiden major final as Osaka enjoyed the big stage, Brady wrestled the momentum after reclaiming the break - the 22nd seed starting to outhit the former in a fascinating baseline battle.

Some out of character misses and errors crept into Osaka's game - 15 in total in the opening set, she managed just 21 in total in her straight-sets win over Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

Full of confidence, Brady had a chance to break Osaka, who fended it off to move ahead 5-4 before the debutant crumbled.

In control at 40-15, Brady's position wilted as she was was caught off-guard by an Osaka return that caught the line and it got worse after firing a volley into the net to gift the third seed the set.

For all of her hard work in an absorbing first set, Brady's hard work came undone early in the second - the fast-moving Osaka winning four consecutive games to close in on victory.

Brady managed to stop the rot by breaking back and clawing two consecutive games, however, it only delayed the inevitable as Osaka further cemented herself as the face of women's tennis.


Data slam: Osaka joins multiple winners
The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to win multiple Australian Open titles. Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat - she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 16/24
Brady – 15/31

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 6/2
Brady – 2/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/5
Brady – 2/4

Daniil Medvedev goes into Sunday's Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic in incredible form.

The Russian star extended his winning streak to 20 matches with a straight-sets victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals on Friday.

Medvedev became the 25th man in the Open Era to record a Tour-level winning streak of 20 matches. He is the sixth active player to manage the feat, joining Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro.

The 25-year-old's run has not only been utterly dominant, but also included some rather impressive wins.

Of his 20 victories, 12 have come against top-10 players, including Djokovic. Since November, Medvedev has beaten every other member of the top 10 except Federer, who has been out of action.

"It's great to know this. It's a pity that Roger is not playing. I would love to have played him. I'm not saying anything. I just would love to play against him. I mean, to play against Roger is always a privilege. Against Novak, Rafa, Roger," Medvedev said after his win over Tsitsipas.

"But it's great to hear this. I mean, happy about myself, because I remember one moment when I was already playing quite good I actually was struggling with the top-10 guys when I was maybe around top 20 or top 30.

"It's great to hear this and I'm really happy about it."

Along with Djokovic and Nadal, Medvedev's run has also included wins over Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev (three times), Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini and Tsitsipas.

In his 20-match streak, Medvedev has won 44 sets and lost just seven, and two of those were in his five-set victory over Filip Krajinovic in the third round.

Medvedev has won three of his past four meetings with Djokovic, who edges their overall head-to-head 4-3.

His run will have Medvedev full of confidence as he bids to win a first grand slam title, needing to overcome the record eight-time champion in Melbourne to do so.

Novak Djokovic will take the advantage of having an extra day's rest into the Australian Open final against the red-hot Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic is set to compete in his 28th grand slam final and ninth in Melbourne as the Serbian star eyes an 18th major title on Sunday.

The 33-year-old looked in good form in a semi-final thrashing of Aslan Karatsev on Thursday – 24 hours before Medvedev impressively dispatched of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

For the second year in a row, Djokovic will have an extra day's rest over his opponent ahead of the decider.

Since 2000, players who have had the extra day's rest have won 12 and lost nine of the 21 finals. Djokovic has had the slight advantage four times – and four times he has not – and won all eight finals.

Given he has battled a suspected abdominal injury at this year's tournament, the additional day could be an important factor for Djokovic.

He faces Medvedev, who is on a 20-match winning streak that has included 12 victories over top-10 players.

The latest of those was a 6-4 6-2 7-5 mauling of Tsitsipas in their semi-final on Friday.

A key for Medvedev in that success, in which he endured a third-set blip, was that it came in two hours, nine minutes.

Since 2000, men who won the second semi-final in less than three hours are 6-5 in deciders. That record drops to 3-7 when the last-four clash has exceeded three hours.

Of the three that have managed it after marathon wins, Djokovic achieved it twice – in 2012 and 2015, while Rafael Nadal was the other in 2009, when he beat Roger Federer in the final after winning an epic against Fernando Verdasco.

It leaves the extra day's rest likely to be less of a factor on Sunday as both men chase history.

Entering Australian Open final with an extra day's rest since 2000
2020: Novak Djokovic (won against Dominic Thiem)
2019: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2018: Marin Cilic (lost against Roger Federer)
2017: Roger Federer (won against Rafael Nadal)
2016: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2015: Andy Murray (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2014: Stan Wawrinka (won against Rafael Nadal)
2013: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2012: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2011: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2010: Andy Murray (lost against Roger Federer)
2009: Roger Federer (lost against Rafael Nadal)
2008: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2007: Roger Federer (won against Fernando Gonzalez)
2006: Marcos Baghdatis (lost against Roger Federer)
2005: Marat Safin (won against Lleyton Hewitt)
2004: Marat Safin (lost against Roger Federer)
2003: Andre Agassi (won against Rainer Schuttler)
2002: Thomas Johansson (won against Marat Safin)
2001: Andre Agassi (won against Arnaud Clement)
2000: Andre Agassi (won against Yevgeny Kafelnikov)
Wins: 12 Losses: 9

Daniil Medvedev believes he has "nothing to lose" in Sunday's Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic.

Medvedev reached his second grand slam decider after an impressive 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in their last-four clash in Melbourne on Friday.

The Russian fourth seed became the 25th man in the Open Era to record a Tour-level winning streak of 20 as he continued his incredible form.

Medvedev said in an on-court interview all the pressure in the final would be on Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record eight times.

Despite seeking his maiden grand slam crown, the 25-year-old – who has won three of his past four meetings with Djokovic – said he had nothing to lose in the final.

"I think he's the favourite because he didn't lose. In eight occasions that he was here in the semis he won the tournament. Me, I'm, how you can call it, I don't know how you call it in English, not an outsider, but I'm the challenger, the guy that challenges the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times. And I'm happy about it," Medvedev told a news conference.

"I like to play against Novak. We have, since the first one when I was ranked 60, we had always tough matches physically, mentally. And he's one of the greatest tennis players in the history of tennis. So playing the final against him is superb. I'm really happy about it. Let's see what happens on Sunday.

"When I say no pressure, for sure when we get out there we both feel pressure. I want to win my first one. He wants to win number 18. We don't know for who the crowd is going to be. It's all the small details.

"I think if we talk in general, well, I have nothing to lose, to be honest."

Medvedev hit 46 winners and 21 unforced errors against Tsitsipas, overcoming a third-set blip to close out his victory.

As the Rod Laver Arena crowd attempted to get Tsitsipas back into the contest, Medvedev claimed a key break in the 11th game of the third set with a tremendous backhand pass down the line, which he celebrated with a dance.

"They [the crowd] were mostly for him, and that was, you know, the moment that I won the match, we should say. Of course you have to serve after, but that was important moment. So I wanted them to recognise me, I would say, because the shot was unbelievable, I think one of my best shots in my career," Medvedev said.

"Actually, my legs were facing the other way of the court because I didn't have time, so I have no idea how I made this, and I was really happy about it."

Stefanos Tsitsipas paid tribute to Daniil Medvedev for his performance in their Australian Open semi-final on Friday.

Medvedev set up a clash against Novak Djokovic in the decider in Melbourne after producing an impressive performance in a 6-4 6-2 7-5 victory over Tsitsipas.

The Russian fourth seed became the 25th man in the Open Era to record a Tour-level winning streak of 20 as he continued his incredible form.

Tsitsipas, who has lost six of seven meetings with Medvedev, credited the 2019 US Open runner-up for his display.

"Everyone saw what just happened out there. I'm the last person you should be asking this," the Greek fifth seed told a news conference.

"I was just focused on my game, and he put out his show. He became Daniil Medvedev for three sets in a row."

Medvedev hammered 46 winners to go with just 21 unforced errors, while dropping serve just once.

He will be aiming for his maiden grand slam title when he faces Djokovic, a player he has beaten in three of their previous four meetings.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Daniil win the tournament. But, you know, it's a strange scenario," Tsitsipas said.

"I played Rafa [Nadal] here two years ago. I found his performance against me that day phenomenal. I was 100 per cent sure he was gonna win the tournament. And I ended up being wrong.

"Who knows? I don't know. Like, Djokovic is playing well too. Look, I'm not a betting website. I don't know what to say. Might be Medvedev, would be good for him, good for tennis."

Daniil Medvedev produced an impressive performance to outclass Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets and book an Australian Open final meeting with Novak Djokovic.

Medvedev was in irresistible form on Rod Laver Arena, needing just over two hours to get past Tsitsipas 6-4 6-2 7-5 on Friday and move into his second grand slam final.

The Russian fourth seed extended his winning streak to 20 matches heading into Sunday, when he will be aiming to claim his maiden major title.

Tsitsipas, coming off an incredible comeback win over Rafael Nadal in the last eight, had the backing of the Melbourne crowd, but no answers to Medvedev, who won for the sixth time in seven meetings between the pair despite a third-set blip.

After an entertaining but largely uneventful start, Medvedev broke for 3-2, a wonderful backhand winner down the line followed up by Tsitsipas sending a forehand just long.

Medvedev was boosted by the break, holding to love in the next game as Tsitsipas' errors mounted, and the Russian closed out the first set despite an increasingly boisterous crowd urging the Greek on.

The baseline exchanges were being dominated by Medvedev, who broke in the third game of the second set on the back of a whipped forehand winner and another down the line.

Medvedev broke to love in the seventh game and he lost just three points on serve in the second set to take complete control.

He continued to dictate points and hit winners at will, breaking serve again to begin the third set, before a blip – a tame forehand into the net seeing Tsitsipas break back, much to the delight of most fans in Rod Laver Arena.

Medvedev saved a break point in the eighth game with an ace down the T to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.

He came from 0-30 down to hold for 5-5 in what would prove a key moment, a spectacular backhand pass seeing him break serve – and into a dance – in the following game on his way to victory.

 

Data Slam: Medvedev in magical form ahead of Djokovic final
Medvedev became the 25th man in the Open Era to record a Tour-level winning streak of 20, and he is just the sixth active player to do so, joining Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro. He is also on a 12-match winning streak against top-10 opponents.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Medvedev – 46/21
Tsitsipas – 19/30

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Medvedev – 17/2
Tsitsipas – 3/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Medvedev – 5/9
Tsitsipas – 1/3

Naomi Osaka can continue what is becoming a magical trend with a win in the Australian Open final.

The Japanese star will face Jennifer Brady in the decider at Melbourne Park on Saturday as she eyes a fourth grand slam title.

But Osaka, 23, can also continue an unlikely and rather incredible trend at the year's first grand slam – winning the crown after saving match point.

If she can get past Brady, Osaka would become the seventh woman in the Open Era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point along the way, joining Monica Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

Osaka was pushed to the brink by Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round of this year's tournament. She faced two match points at 3-5 in the third set, saving the first with an ace down the T – no woman has served more aces than her 44 at the tournament – before a powerful forehand forced Muguruza into an error. Osaka would win four straight games to reach the quarter-finals.

Wozniacki's success three years ago was particularly remarkable as she saved two match points in the second round against Jana Fett, reeling off six straight games from 5-1 down in the final set. The last time it happened in a women's draw outside of the Australian Open was at Wimbledon in 2009, and it has occurred three times since in Melbourne.

Osaka's coach, Wim Fissette, said the mental side of the game was a key focus for the star.

"I think it's just part of the workday by day and where we speak about different topics. And honestly, it's a very important topic for her. She knows the experience of the past years like when her attitude is good, her mind is very clear what she needs to do, what she wants to do, and then she plays well," he said on Friday.

"So, the base of playing really well is a good attitude. Doesn't mean you cannot be negative, like, at some point, you know. It's only human or normal to be frustrated maybe at one point, but to reset immediately, that's a very important one. So it's not something, let's say, we had, like, big conversations about, but it's a daily topic, and it's more coming from Naomi that she wants to be that person that's always, like, behaves well on the court. That's kind of a role model also for younger players."

While Brady shapes as a major test, Osaka has won every major at which she has gone past the fourth round.

Osaka is also on a 20-match winning streak, becoming the third woman since 2010 to achieve such a run – joining Williams (27 in 2014-15) and Victoria Azarenka (26 in 2012). The incredible run included a US Open semi-final win over Brady last year, and Osaka has proven unstoppable – a couple of walkovers aside. Brady pushed Osaka to three sets at Flushing Meadows and the American has put together a fine run of her own in Melbourne.

But the three-time major winner's hot streak has her well-placed for more history on Saturday, and to continue an incredible trend in Melbourne.

Jennifer Brady is on texting terms with an all-time great, told the world her twin sister is "a nerd" in a news conference, and refuelled with twice-daily orders of takeaway food during her Melbourne quarantine.

Naomi Osaka is commanding almost all the attention, but the 'other' Australian Open women's finalist is a peppy character who could head home to the United States next week as a grand slam winner for the first time.

She reached the US Open semi-finals last year too, and has now become the eighth American woman to reach the final of a singles major in the 21st century.

We should talk more about her.

So who's her famous friend?

Brady was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and moved with her family to Florida as a nine-year-old, but "not for tennis".

Sucks to that. At the age of 10 she joined Chris Evert's academy in Boca Raton, learning the ways of the 18-time grand slam winner.

But Brady admits she "had a bit of a temper as a kid" and lacked mental sturdiness, which might just be why it has taken her until the age of 25 to make a major breakthrough.

Evert recognised her talent from an early age though.

"Chrissie messages me every now and then a lot," said Brady. "She is somebody who has seen me since I was 10, 11 years old. So she's probably known me the longest out here.

"It's awesome to have someone like her in your corner, supporting you and cheering for you."

Why haven't we heard about Brady before?

All sports have sliding doors moments and if Michael Geserer had not come into Brady's life, who is to say she would have scaled such heights as these.

Coach Geserer was nudged Brady's way in 2019 by a mutual acquaintance, American coach Billy Heiser, and her career has been on an upwards trajectory ever since.

A promising junior but an unfulfilled talent as a professional, Brady was approaching her mid-20s and searching for direction.

She had already taken the college route into professional sport, playing at the University of California, Los Angeles. Doing so gave initial life to a career that could have been lost to the drip, drip pain of one painful defeat after another while still a junior.

As Brady recalled: "I took a hit there and thought, 'OK, maybe I'm not meant for this sport. Maybe I'm not good enough. I'll go to college for four years and then I'll find a real job.'"

What happened next?

From 55th in the world at the end of 2019, Brady leapt to 24th after the abridged 2020 season. Now the top 10 is beckoning. Her game is suddenly dynamite.

Geserer is German, and Brady took a leap of faith by leaving Florida behind from July to December last year to train in her coach's favoured environment, teaching herself to handle homesickness.

"Once you become too comfortable, I think that's when you're in trouble," Brady said. "Going over and training in Germany, at times I might be, like, 'OK, I wish I was home'. But other times, I'm like, 'OK, it's worth it'.

"I have to do what I have to do to become the best tennis player right now and then afterwards I can live my life."

What. A. Quote. And here's another...

Brady has a twin, Jessica. On Thursday, Jessica copped one in a Melbourne Park news conference.

Asked whether her sister plays tennis at all, Brady was cheekily brutal, saying that Jessica "gave up" and explaining: "She's a nerd. She studies. She's in medical school. So she has the brains and I have the athletic genes."

Everything's Hunky Dory with Brady

Hunky Dory is at the classier end of Melbourne's takeaway outlets, and Brady makes no bones about declaring she would order takeout from there while in hard quarantine before the Australian Open began.

Confined to a hotel bedroom for a fortnight, Brady called in orders for "the first seven days, every single day, sometimes twice a day".

But if delicious deliveries of fast food were on the menu, fast fixes of entertainment emphatically were not.

"I didn't watch one Netflix series just because I knew if I started something then I wouldn't want to do anything else except just lay in bed and watch Netflix," Brady said.

She knows Osaka is 'magnificent'

Why deny it? Brady first faced Osaka on the professional tour at a tiny $50,000 event in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2014.

She beat the 17-year-old Osaka that day but has lost both their encounters since. It was Osaka, on her way to a third grand slam title, who ended Brady's US Open run last September.

When a reporter asked Brady at last year's US Open, 'Obviously Naomi is magnificent. What makes her so magnificent?', Brady slung out a raft of compliments.

And this week she cast her mind back to that 2014 clash, recalling: "I was, like, 'Wow, she hits the ball huge. She's gonna be good. OK, she's got something special.'"

She's not afraid to be afraid, but she's going to own any fears

Brady knows Saturday's final is a big deal and it is not her nature to spout "just another game" cliches, as some might.

"I'll definitely be nervous 100 per cent, but there is no hiding it. I just have to embrace it and enjoy the moment," she said. "I think I have earned the right to be sitting here, to be playing in a final, in a grand slam final."

She wants to find focus and to make the biggest moment of her career even bigger. That's now the Jennifer Brady way.

"But there's gonna be moments, there's gonna be games, there's gonna be points where I'm going to be thinking about, 'Wow, this could be my first grand slam title," Brady said. "I will definitely have those thoughts."

Novak Djokovic ended Aslan Karatsev's dream run to reach his ninth Australian Open final on Thursday.

Djokovic, who has been dealing with an abdominal injury in Melbourne, brushed past qualifier Karatsev 6-3 6-4 6-2 in their semi-final on Rod Laver Arena.

The world number one has won the Australian Open every time he has reached the semi-finals, and he is on track again ahead of facing either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's decider.

Djokovic moved into his 28th grand slam final – a tally bettered only by Roger Federer (31) – as he targets an 18th major title.

Karatsev held his own in the early baseline exchanges and dug himself out of a 0-30 hole in the sixth game.

But he could not deny Djokovic in his next service game, broken to love when he pulled a backhand wide as the Serbian won 10 straight points and the set.

Djokovic broke again in the third game of the second set following a Karatsev double fault, and a fortunate net cord saw him into a 4-1 lead as he took complete control.

Karatsev got one of the breaks back and pushed for the other, but Djokovic – who had won all 19 of his previous meetings with qualifiers at grand slams – closed out the second set.

Just as Karatsev seemed to be working his way back into the contest and the duo exchanged breaks to begin the third, Djokovic took a 3-2 lead as he won the final four games of the match.

 

Data Slam: Age still no barrier for Djokovic
Djokovic became the first man in the Open Era to reach three Australian Open finals after turning 30. The 33-year-old has dominated in Melbourne, and his run continues.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 30/14
Karatsev – 24/30

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 17/2
Karatsev – 6/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 6/7
Karatsev – 2/5

It remains to be seen whether Serena Williams returns to contest the Australian Open in 2022 but amid long-term doubts, Naomi Osaka said "I want her to play forever".

Williams' long-standing bid to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles was put on hold by three-time major champion Osaka, who overpowered the American superstar 6-3 6-4 in the blockbuster Australian Open semi-final.

Not since claiming the 2017 Australian Open trophy has Williams celebrated a slam crown, and the 39-year-old is not getting any younger as she faded into the Melbourne shadows on Thursday.

Williams broke down in tears and cut short her news conference post-match, having been involved in an emotional moment on Rod Laver Arena, where the seven-time Australian Open champion held her hand on her chest and waved to the crowd.

Asked what it means to face Williams as the clock ticks on a legendary career, Osaka – who topped the veteran in the 2018 US Open final – told reporters: "It definitely means a lot.

"Every time I play her, I feel like it's something I'll definitely remember a lot.

"I don't know, it's kind of sad when you say it like that because for me, I want her to play forever. That's the little kid in me."

Japanese star and third seed Osaka will now face Jennifer Brady in Saturday's final as she eyes her second Australian Open crown.

Osaka has gone on to win the title each time after advancing past the round of 16 at a slam – 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open, while she is in the midst of a 20-match winning streak.

Asked what makes her so hard to beat in finals, Osaka added: "For me, 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.

"I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that's where you sort of set yourself apart. It's the other person who won as many matches as you did. It's something that I think, it's like the biggest fight."

Jennifer Brady will contest her first grand slam final after outlasting Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open.

A beaten semi-finalist at last year's US Open, American Brady took down fellow seed Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4 in Melbourne on Thursday.

In a nervy finish, Brady wasted four match points before converting the fifth to secure a showdown with former world number one and three-time slam champion Naomi Osaka in Saturday's decider.

Brady (26) had dropped the fewest games en route to the semis and the 22nd seed looked like the player to beat in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena.

Despite Muchova recovering from a slow start to level the set at 2-2, Brady was not to be denied behind a strong first serve, even though her unforced-error tally reached 17 compared to just eight on her opponent's racquet.

Just like she did when upstaging world number one Ash Barty in the quarter-finals, 25th seed Muchova composed herself against the high-octane Brady.

Settling into a rhythm, Muchova was almost flawless in the second set, which only featured once unforced error, while the Czech won all of her second-serve points as she only dropped one point on first serve.

Muchova's measured aggression troubled Brady as the semi-final clash headed to a tense decider.

But Brady managed to slow down and settle back into her stride, an early break securing the advantage that the 25-year-old never relinquished in an engrossing finish.

 

Data Slam: ​Another finals debutant
Brady is the seventh woman to make her debut in a grand slam final in the past nine majors, after Osaka (won 2018 US Open), Barty (won 2019 French Open), Marketa Vondrousova (lost 2019 French Open), Bianca Andreescu (won 2019 US Open), Sofia Kenin (won 2020 Australian Open) and Iga Swiatek (won 2020 Roland Garros).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Brady – 20/38
Muchova – 21/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Brady – 8/2
Muchova – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Brady – 3/3
Muchova – 3/7

Serena Williams refused to confirm whether she made her last Australian Open appearance after breaking down in tears and leaving her news conference following a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka.

Bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles – having last won a major in 2017 – Williams was overpowered 6-3 6-4 by third seed Osaka in Melbourne on Thursday.

It was Williams' first semi-final defeat at the Australian Open following eight consecutive victories in the final four of the year's opening slam.

The 39-year-old American star cut an emotional figure afterwards on Rod Laver Arena, where she held her hand on her chest and waved to the crowd after fans were allowed to attend following a five-day coronavirus shutdown.

Asked about the moment, seven-time Australian Open champion Williams told reporters: "The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see."

When pressed if it was a Melbourne farewell, Williams replied: "I don't know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

A tearful Williams then suddenly ended her news conference after being asked about the match.

Williams was visibly and vocally frustrated against Osaka after seeing an early 2-0 lead slip.

Osaka reeled off five consecutive games and six of the next seven to close out the set before taking complete control against the former world number one.

Williams finished with 24 unforced errors against the three-time slam champion and 2019 Australian Open winner.

At the start of her post-match duties, Williams said: "I wouldn't say I was nervous. The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today.

"Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love. I just made so many errors."

"I felt like I was hitting well," Williams added. "I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities.

"I don't know. Just made too many mistakes there, easy mistakes. Not like I was on the run or anything, they were just easy, easy mistakes."

Serena Williams' quest for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title has been delayed again after being overpowered 6-3 6-4 by third seed Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals.

Stuck on 23 slam championships since reigning supreme at Melbourne Park in 2017, Williams was hoping to move within a step of matching Margaret Court's record.

But the 39-year-old former world number one was taken down by three-time major champion Osaka in a blockbuster battle of the big hitters on Thursday.

Japanese star Osaka will now face either Jennifer Brady or Karolina Muchova in Saturday's final as she eyes her second Australian Open crown.

Osaka – the youngest player remaining in the draw – initially struggled under the beaming Melbourne sun as fans returned to Rod Laver Arena following a five-day state-wide lockdown after a coronavirus outbreak.

She was in all sorts, struggling on serve and tallying five unforced errors through two forgettable games as Williams raced out to a 2-0 lead.

Osaka – boasting a 3-0 record in grand slam semis – faced a 30-40 deficit and potential 0-3 hole before digging deep to hold for the first time.

It proved to be a turning point for Osaka, who went on a roll by reeling off five successive games and six of the next seven to take complete control.

The tables turned on Williams, who saw her unforced-error count balloon out to 16 while only hitting four winners in the opening set.

Williams – the oldest woman to reach the semis in Melbourne in the Open Era – carried a flawless Australian Open semi-final record into the contest, having won all eight of her previous final-four showdowns.

But Williams cut a frustrated figure at the start of the second set as she yelled at herself "make a shot" amid her demise – Osaka breaking in the first game before consolidating.

However Osaka, who has gone on to win the title each time after advancing past the round of 16 at a slam – 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open, lost her way when serving at 4-3 as three double faults saw her broken by Williams.

Williams, beaten by Osaka in an infamous US Open final three years ago, regifted the compliment the very next game, Osaka hitting three stunning winners to break to love before sealing her place in the women's decider.

 

Data slam: Osaka stays hot
She has now won 20 consecutive matches since losing while on Fed Cup duty for Japan last February. A 21st successive victory would yield a fourth slam triumph.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 12/24
Osaka – 20/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 3/1
Osaka – 6/8

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 2/7
Osaka – 4/4

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