Tuesday’s quarter-finals were both decided in straight sets although the scorelines didn’t exactly tell the full story. This draw has produced so many blockbuster match-ups and we have the ultimate one set for Thursday as Serena Williams will take on Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals. Can’t wait! Read on for thoughts of Naomi and Serena’s quarter-final victories in my day 9 notebook.
Day 9️⃣ Highlights
(10) Serena Williams d. (2) Simona Halep, 6-3 6-3
This was a statement performance from Serena. I thought she was sensational. The scoreline doesn’t reflect how tough the match was and the stats don’t reflect how well Serena played. Sometimes the story lies deeper than the numbers. Serena signalled her intent early on with some crushing groundstrokes. I thought Serena was hitting the forehand superbly. One of my favourite underrated aspects of Serena’s game is the angles that she can generate. Serena was opening up the court beautifully. Halep landed 72% of first serves in play. It wasn’t enough as she won only 57% of points behind it with Serena really ripping on the return.
Serena had a dip at the start of the second set. Halep capitalised with a break, much like she did against Swiatek in the previous round. However, this time she was unable to consolidate the break. The pair were level at 3-3 in the second set and it was the pivotal seventh game that ultimately decided the outcome of the match. Serena converted on her sixth break point of the game. Perhaps it’s a case of recency bias but i’m not sure i’ve ever seen Serena defend this well and track down so many balls. Her defence was amazing! Prior to the match, I thought Halep would wear Serena down in the longer rallies. In fact, it was the other way around as Serena was outlasting Halep in the longer rallies. I felt like Serena kind of broke Halep’s spirit after that 3-3 game.
Aside from the Potapova match, this has arguably been Serena’s most convincing Slam run since coming back to the tour after the birth of her child. The draw in the second week is brutal. She’d have to beat Sabalenka, Halep AND Osaka simply to reach the final. Looking good so far. Big challenge awaits in the semis…
(3) Naomi Osaka d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-2 6-2
Hsieh has always been a tough match-up for Osaka with four of their five previous meetings going the distance. The early signs were ominous when Hsieh smashed a return winner past Osaka on the second point of the match. It didn’t really materialise as Osaka produced a very disciplined performance to score a rare straights win over Hsieh. The first set was much closer than the scoreline suggested. Four of the eight games went to deuce and Osaka saved break points in two of her service games. Osaka had to do a lot of running and digging out balls, and it was a real test of her movement. Hsieh was loving the pace and redirecting at will. However, she did make some uncharacteristic unforced errors in key moments.
As the match wore on, Osaka became increasingly dominant as she managed to get the match on her terms by landing the first strike in the rallies. A wonderful run for Su-Wei and definitely one of my favourite stories of the tournament. So much great Su-Wei content this week! Osaka extended her winning streak to 19. Her last loss on tour was BEFORE the pandemic!
Press conference 📰
Really admire Brady’s perspective on the hard lockdown. Also enjoyed her reaction to hearing that Osaka said their US Open match last year was in her top two all-time matches.
Recommended reading 📚
Enjoyed this piece on Serena by Matt Zemek about her problem-solving skills.
Day 10 watchlist 📺
Ash Barty vs. Karolina Muchova
Jen Brady vs. Jessica Pegula