Sports

Naomi Osaka wins, may face Serena Williams


MELBOURNE, Australia — For Naomi Osaka, the tournament buzz at the Australian Open spoiled the surprise: She might face Serena Williams next.

Osaka overpowered Hsieh Su-wei 6-2, 6-2 Tuesday to reach the semifinals, and will meet the winner of the quarterfinal match between Williams and No. 2-seeded Simona Halep.

“Normally I never look at my draw,” Osaka said. “But everyone has told me about my draw here, so I kind of had no choice but to know who my next opponent is. It’s definitely going to be really fun.”

Seeded third, Osaka reached 122 mph on her serve against Hsieh. She hit seven aces, lost only two points on her first serve and was never broken en route to her 19th consecutive victory.

Osaka also played excellent defense, such as in the final game, when she raced forward to chase down a drop shot, flicking a backhand cross-court for a winner.

“I couldn’t afford to be lazy with my footwork,” Osaka said with a smile. “I didn’t want to play three sets.”

At 35, Hsieh was the oldest woman to make her Grand Slam quarterfinal debut in the professional era. But Osaka wasn’t fazed by Hsieh’s flat, deceptive two-handed strokes from both sides, pounding forehand winners into both corners.

Hsieh said Osaka is a threat to win the championship.

“She always can go all the way,” Hsieh said. “She just needs to play her game and stay calm. She’s a great player.”

Osaka’s winning streak includes a U.S. Open title in September for her third Grand Slam championship. The streak also includes her fourth-round win last week, when she saved two match points and swept the final four games to overtake Garbiñe Muguruza.

“It makes me a bit more calm, knowing that my back was severely against the wall,” Osaka said.

Osaka is 4-0 in Grand Slam quarterfinals, including a victory en route to the Australian Open title in 2019. Against Williams her record is 2-1, but they haven’t played each other since 2019.

“She’s Serena,” Osaka said. “I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court.”

Two quarterfinal matches were on the men’s schedule: eight-time champion Novak Djokovic against Alexander Zverev, and Grigor Dimitrov versus 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev.


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