Ache & achieve

MELBOURNE, February 18

Naomi Osaka ended Serena Williams’ bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title with an imperious 6-3 6-4 win today, a victory that booked her spot in her second Australian Open final and left the American great in tears.

In a rematch of their tumultuous 2018 US Open decider, Osaka underlined her status as the new queen of women’s tennis and soaked up the cheers from the Rod Laver Arena crowd as fans returned to the Grand Slam after a five-day lockdown. “It’s just always an honour to play her and I just didn’t want to go out really dud. I just wanted to try my best,” Osaka said after her 75-minute match on a steamy afternoon. Osaka, the 2019 champion, will meet Jennifer Brady, who ensured there would be at least one American in the final after battling to a 6-4 3-6 6-4 win over Karolina Muchova in the other semi today.

It will be a rematch of last year’s US Open semifinals, where Osaka edged Brady in three sets on the way to her third Grand Slam triumph.

Djoker the stroker

Defending champion Novak Djokovic declared himself fighting fit for the final after ending the incredible run of Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev with his “best match” of the tournament. The Serbian world No. 1 eased into his ninth decider at the Melbourne Park with a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win under the lights at Rod Laver Arena and will battle either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev for the title. Djokovic’s tournament appeared on a knife edge when he suffered an abdominal injury during his third round match against Taylor Fritz less than a week ago. — Reuters

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