'Where does she go': Brutal reality exposed in Serena Williams defeat

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Pictured here, Serena Williams looks on in frustration during her Australian Open defeat to Naomi Osaka.
Serena Williams blamed her loss to Naomi Osaka on a catalogue of errors. Pic: Getty

Serena Williams' straight sets loss to Naomi Osaka in the semi-finals of the Australian Open was as emphatic as it was poignant.

Many observers viewed Osaka's clinical 6-3, 6-4 win on Thursday afternoon as a changing of the guard in women's tennis.

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Not that Williams seems willing to admit it.

What cannot be denied though is the ease with which Osaka blew Williams off the court with a power game that has been so synonymous with the American 23-time grand slam winner.

Williams put her heavy defeat down to a catalogue of errors in the match - 24 in fact, as opposed to 12 winners.

"The difference today was errors. I made so many errors," she said in her post-match interview.

"Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love (in the first set). I just made so many errors."

However, many good judges argue that it was Osaka's unrelenting power and precision that were forcing Williams into those errors, more so than the American simply choking on the day.

Tennis analyst Matt Roberts told the Tennis Podcast that Serena simply wasn't allowed to dictate terms as she normally does, because of how good Osaka was. 

“We didn’t see the best of Serena but we did see the best of Naomi Osaka,” Roberts said.

“It’s brought out a question of was Serena playing badly by her standards because she was playing badly? Or was it because of what Osaka was doing to her?

“That is the thing I was wrestling with throughout the match and by the end I came down on the side of, it was what Osaka was doing more than anything that was causing Serena to have an off day.

“The pressure Osaka can apply to Serena is unlike what anyone else can do.

“She’s calling the shots against Serena Williams, which is an extraordinary thing to say and to witness.”

Seen here, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams embrace after their Australian Open semi-final.
Naomi Osaka was ruthless in her semi-final victory against Serena Williams . Pic: Getty

Serena 'must be confused' 

Williams looked fit and sharp throughout the tournament but found herself wanting against the World No.3 - which no doubt came as a shock to the American.

Roberts says he believes that goes a long way to explaining why Williams left her press conference in tears after the match.

“When you’ve spent your whole career knowing that your best is the best and feeling that way when you take to the court, when that doesn’t happen, that must shake you,” Roberts said. 

“That must panic you, that must confuse you.

“I can imagine that her assessment of the match is therefore, in the immediate aftermath, a little bit compromised. She must be confused about what happened.

“‘How is this happening to me?’ is the impression I got from her while she was playing and then in the press conference afterwards. She’s not used to this.”

Broadcaster Catherine Whitaker agreed with that assessment, but said she understood why Williams would be loathe to admit that she simply can't compete with Osaka's power game anymore.

“Very interestingly, that (Osaka outplaying her) is not how Serena Williams sees it ,” Whitaker said on The Tennis Podcast.

“I don’t think that’s the correct interpretation, but I think Serena has to see it that way. She has to believe that matches are on her racquet, or else where does she go from here?

“I think for her to cope with that loss, as much as that might sound ungenerous towards Naomi Osaka and I think objectively it is, I understand why she needs to see it that way.”

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