Fixture: (10) Serena Williams vs (3) Naomi Osaka
Date: 18 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: AUD $80 million
Live Telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | India - Sony Ten Network / Sony Liv Premium
Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka preview
World No. 3 Naomi Osaka faces 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams on Thursday for a place in the final of the 2021 Australian Open.
Both players have had outstanding campaigns in Melbourne so far. Williams - vying for a record-equalling 24th Major title - was flawless in her opening rounds. She lost her first and only set of the tournament against the in-form Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round.
After weathering the Sabalenka storm, Williams put on a terrific display in the quarterfinal against World No. 2 Simona Halep. The American showed off her powerful groundstrokes and underrated defense to win the match 6-3, 6-3.
Meanwhile Naomi Osaka - much like her veteran opponent - was seriously impressive in the opening rounds of the tournament. The Japanese dropped her first and only set of the fortnight against 2019 finalist Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round.
Osaka was brilliant in her 6-2 6-2 victory over Su-Wei Hsieh in the quarterfinal on Tuesday. Hsieh was riding a huge wave of form and momentum heading into the clash, but the Japanese quelled the threat with ease.
Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka head-to-head
The semifinal encounter in Melbourne is the fourth meeting between the two players. Naomi Osaka currently leads the head-to-head 2-1 over Serena Williams.
The pair have only ever faced off on hardcourts. Apart from the controversial 2018 US Open final that Osaka won, the 23-year-old also defeated Williams in Miami that year.
Williams, however, was triumphant in their last meeting on tour - in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup in 2019.
Serena Williams vs Naomi Osaka prediction
Naomi Osaka enters the contest as the favorite on paper, given her record and superior ranking. However, the semifinal encounter against Serena Williams is likely going to be the sternest test she will face this fortnight.
Williams' big-hitting game has yielded massive results on the quick surfaces at Melbourne Park this year, particularly under the lights. But the American has not just seen success by being the aggressor over the past fortnight. In her matches against Sabalenka and Halep, Williams ground out crucial points with some excellent defensive work and court coverage.
Osaka, however, has been at her absolute best whenever she has found some rhythm from the baseline and been allowed to execute her incredibly efficient quick-strike style of play. The Japanese has been tested by both power-hitters and excellent movers in her opening five matches.
Given the form of the two players and their style of play, this semifinal encounter seems like a blockbuster in the making.
Williams will undoubtedly look to prevent Osaka from getting into a rhythm from the the back of the court by putting pressure on her early. The American will also have to mix up her game and test the 23-year-old's skills at the net.
All that said, Osaka's recent form on hardcourts and her demostratably superior fitness may give her the edge. If the Japanese uses her aggressive brand of tennis to stop her opponent from taking the initiative, she is likely to come away victorious.
Prediction: Naomi Osaka to win in three sets.