2021 Australian Open, Day 9 Highlights: Naomi Osaka vs. Serena Williams incoming…

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

Follow Moo’s Tennis Blog on Twitter and Facebook. Feature photo by Omar Boraby Photography.

3 thoughts on “2021 Australian Open, Day 9 Highlights: Naomi Osaka vs. Serena Williams incoming…

  1. Hey. Love the site, keep up the great work.

    I’ve said it before, and i know you don’t particularly care for it, but I’m going to say it again anyway;

    Here we go, Naomi vs Williams. The two will be forever linked, for something that shined quite a light on both players.

    I fell in love with Osaka at that US Open final. At the beginning, the crowd was completely against her. And yet, she played gritty, and she was causing Williams enormous problems. And alot of the time, when that happens, you start to see the physical manifestations come out in Williams demeanor.

    We all saw what happened that afternoon. And when it was all said and done, the thing i’ll never, ever forget, is Naomi Osaka being forced to apologize for winning the US Open. Crying while she did it; reduced to tears and whispering apologies while being made to feel like a villain. She was just a kid (she still is, I guess, although her wisdom tells me that’s not right); the opportunity was there for an experienced champion to somehow make it better for the kid that day. That never entered Williams’ mind. Williams and the crowd left Naomi Osaka standing alone that day, in one of the ugliest moments I’ve ever seen in my lifelong love of professional tennis.

    I will never forget it.

    Osaka belies her age. Her caring for people, the sport, her awareness of the world around her; her innate understanding that life is not only about her. She’s a brilliant champion, and she’s an absolute wonder for her sport. She’s had nothing but great things to say about Williams to this day; she’s clearly a way bigger person than most, that’s obvious.

    Now, for the matchup;

    Serena played the best match I’ve seen her play since her comeback, outplaying Simona Halep in a highly competitive duel. A high level match, and Williams was better in every way. So this match later today looks like a potentially great one.

    I must say, I don’t really understand how anybody could sit down and watch these two play, Osaka and Williams, and actually root for Williams. LOL. But hey, it’s a big world. I’ll be pulling for Naomi. It feels like a total coin flip. Williams could very possibly win this match. She sure looked great last night. And there won’t be any lines people whose lives will be threatened tonight, so that’s another big positive to look forward to. .

    Best of luck, I’m hoping for a great match.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Craig 🙂. And thanks for your comment. I try to forget about that US Open final to be honest 😂. I felt for Naomi, I think we all did, at what should have been her moment after playing such a sensational match. She’s a superstar. I really enjoy listening to her in press. I’m really looking forward to this match and hoping it will be a classic.

      Like

  2. Me too Craig. I think whoever wins that one will win the title – much as I’d be happy for either Karolina Muchova or Jen Brady to be first time slam winners, I think whoever wins the Naomi Osaka – Serena clash will be too strong for them on the day.

    Liked by 1 person

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