Former champions Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams steamrolled opponents on Tuesday to set up an all-star semi-final at the Australian Open.
Osaka, who lifted the Melbourne title in 2019, put out Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-2, 6-2 while seven-time winner Williams came from 3-1 down in the second set to beat second seed Simona Halep 6-3,, 6-3 in 82 minutes.
“I had 3-1 and serve didn’t help me much,” Halep said. “I had to be a little bit stronger on the serve but it didn’t work today. She was very powerful at the return.
“I had a good match tonight. I’m not that disappointed about myself. Attitude was maybe a little bit negative the whole tournament.
“But I’m gonna work on this, and I will come back stronger, for sure.”
Williams called herself “happy to be here. I’ve got to keep going.
“That’s obviously the goal. I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game – I’m going to have to.
“I’m in the semi-finals, that’s pretty awesome.
“No one gets there by chance, so I have got to be ready.”
Japan’s third-seeded Osaka owns a 2-1 record over Williams, with their most notorious match the ill-tempered 2018 US Open final where Williams melted down in a tirade against the chair umpire.
Against the quirky 35-year-old Hsieh, the doubles No. 1 who buys her own tennis clothes due to lack of a sponsor, Osaka moved through in 68 minutes for a 5-1 lead in their series.
“Every time I play her it’s really challenging because I never know exactly what she’s going to do with the ball,” the winner said.
“Today I really focused on my game plan, I was very clear on what I had to do”.
Like much of the rest of the field, Osaka said she always keeps half an eye on the 39-year-old Williams.
“I grew up watching Serena, Federer, Nadal. It’s just more of a habit than anything. Everyone in the tournament watches her.
“She’s Serena, I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court.”
Osaka has a rep to uphold, having never failed to win a Grand Slam title when she gets as far as the quarters.
“I’ve only been to four quarter-finals but I would be more impressed if I didn’t lose in finals.”