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?
10 thoughts on “2021 Australian Open, Day 11 Highlights: Naomi Osaka vs. Jen Brady for the title”
Sad end for Serena. It definitely feels like she’s reached that point where she’s questioning whether the quest for 24 is going to be successful. I hope that she will play out the rest of the year though because she’s been in superb form throughout the tournament. Had Osaka not shown up (and boy did she) then the result may well have been very different. And Wimbledon is always going to be her best chance, if she’s fit.
I’m thrilled for Naomi and Jennifer. Osaka doesn’t have much to prove at this point and that’s clearly brought her a sense of freedom which we haven’t seen in any Slam winner or number 1 in a long, long time (Clijsters/Henin/Sharapova?). Having said that, Brady should feel like she has nothing to lose in the final. So I hope we get an epic match between them!
Indeed. Agreed, Wimbledon will always be Serena’s best chance. Today’s performance aside, she’s had a great start to the year and beating Halep and Sabalenka back-to-back is no mean feat. Osaka has been phenomenal at this tournament. Intrigued by the final after their US Open semi-final match which was one of the best matches of 2020. Hard to look past Osaka with how she has been playing these two weeks.
It’s just the way Osaka goes about her game, playing from within, that has been the clincher for me. She’s basically a young, prime Serena-esque player. It’s the sincerity with which she plays Serena, always trying to put her best foot forward, I simply can’t look past her in their match-ups. Even the manner in which she acknowledges Serena at the end of the match speaks volumes of her ‘kinship’ towards her opponent.
All that said, Brady is going to be up and ready for this final. Me, I’ve still got all my eggs in Osaka’s basket. I think it’s safe there.
I don’t see Serena in Osaka. I think the comparison really begins and ends with them both having power and speed. Young Serena had such *energy* on the court – that just wouldn’t be how I describe Naomi. I would say she has more of a Venus presence on court than Serena. But either way, she’s completely her own player.
I haven’t always been a huge fan of Serena, although I have complete respect for her, but I’m now hoping she will get another slam or two. It just seems that it’s the right thing to happen. Pleased for Osaka, but thought Serena might win this tournament. Hopefully Wimbledon will be a better chance.
I feel the same way, David. Not a big fan of Serena but I have the utmost respect for what she has achieved during her career. I think Wimbledon will be her best chance.
Looking ahead, I think Serena should still target the French Open. Wimbledon is understandable, but I feel a bit too obvious. With her improving movement, the clay should be a good experience.
Speaking of clay, I hope Kiki Bertens gets to tune up her game again with the Family Circle Cup.The green clay has been a good preparation for her during the spring season. Hopefully she will be well rested and her Achilles tendon properly healed.
Osaka needs to embrace the grass, her game is well suited for the surface. I do hope she thinks about a Wimbledon crown come the summer season.
I think Bertens is hoping to come back next month, just in time for the clay court season! I’ve always felt Osaka’s game could work on grass. Will be one of most interesting storylines of the year to see if Osaka can translate her success to grass and clay.
Yeah, I see no reason why Osaka couldn’t be equally devastating on clay or grass. She has so much power and yet her movement is superb! I think it’s probably a mental thing and one day it’ll click into place for her (like Sharapova on clay).
Agreed! I was looking back at Naomi’s Wimbledon results. 2019 loss against Putintseva was obviously a rough year but before that she lost to Kerber and Venus in the third round. Both went onto reach the final that year and Kerber was the champ.