We’re down to the final two at the 2021 Australian Open after Thursday’s semi-finals. Naomi Osaka and Jennifer Brady won through to Saturday’s showpiece. There’s always a big sense of relief when Thursday’s matches have passed and there is no more overnight tennis! I can finally start catching up on sleep 😂. It’s been fun. Read on for my day 11 notebook with thoughts about both semi-finals.
Day 1️⃣1️⃣ Highlights
(3) Naomi Osaka d. (10) Serena Williams, 6-3 6-4
My expectation was obviously too high for Naomi-Serena. I thought it was going to be a classic! It didn’t materialise as the pair played out another straight setter. Osaka continues to amaze me with her sense of calm. There’s no doubt that she came out tight with a few early aborted ball tosses and a rush of errors. Serena had her opportunities to take a substantial lead, most notably with a break point at 2-0 for a double break lead. Osaka managed to ease her way into the match and looked secure after holding another close game to lead 3-2 in the first set. Neither player served well. Osaka essentially won the first set without a first serve as she landed only 36% (!) first serves in play.
The other example of Osaka’s calmness was when she led by a break in the second set. At *4-3, Osaka hit three double faults to get broken. Panic alert? I was slamming the panic button but no, not for Naomi. She broke Serena back immediately with an exceptional game where her backhand was on fire. Osaka won the last eight points of the match as she found her first serve to serve out to love.
It was not Serena’s day. She made a bright start and was hitting some gorgeous angles at the start to get Osaka on the move. It was shortlived though. Serena let Osaka off the hook on return. The difference in Serena’s forehand was stark to the Halep match. Serena cut her press conference short as she was clearly emotional when asked about the errors. After winning her first game, Osaka settled and looked awesome in the rallies, dictating the majority of the points. Osaka extends her winning streak to 20 and advances to her fourth Slam final.
(22) Jen Brady d. (25) Karolina Muchova, 6-4 3-6 6-4
Brady showed nerves of steel to serve out the win over Muchova and book her place in a Slam final for the first time. The final game was rather exhilarating with so much tension! In a 12-minute game, Brady needed five match points to convert and also saved three break points. Muchova missed two seemingly straightforward returns. Credit though to Brady for the smart choice of going to the kick serve.
The first two sets were a tad flat. Not quite sure how Brady pulled out the first set with nine more errors than Muchova. Brady was overpressing for much of the set. I guess she was rewarded for being a bit more positive. Muchova broke immediately at the start of the second set and ran with it, barely making an error in the set. The third set was the best of the three. Muchova played a roughhh service at 1-1 and Brady then front-ran the match brilliantly, showcasing wonderful variety on serve.
A wonderful run for Muchova. I think this is just the start for the Czech player. Brady’s tennis in the last two matches has been a little shaky at times. She’s competed superbly to get the win. I’d argue these two wins have been more impressive than any of her other victories because she has been challenged mentally. Brady has come such a long way in terms of building her belief and mental toughness. That final game, as nervy as it was, was a great close.
Nice moment at the net between Naomi and Serena.
Funny moment 🤣
Writing on the camera has been a thing at this tournament.
Recommended media 📺
This was a moment when Serena paused to take in the crowd applause.
Day 13 watchlist 📺
Naomi Osaka vs. Jen Brady… who you got?