Osaka, Williams together on centre stage

·3-min read

Serena Williams insists she and Naomi Osaka have achieved closure from their infamous 2018 US Open title match in New York.

But that won't stop sports fans talking about it ahead of the two superstars' mouth-watering Australian Open semi-final on Thursday.

The heavyweight encounter at Melbourne Park will be their first meeting at a grand slam since that fateful evening at Flushing Meadows.

Back in September 2018, Williams seemed destined to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 major titles at her home slam.

But after engaging in a running battle with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, whom she called "a liar" and "a thief", Williams unravelled in a straight-sets defeat to Osaka.

Rather than getting to fully celebrate the momentous achievement of becoming the first Japanese player to win a grand slam title, Osaka was reduced to tears at the trophy presentation as boos rained down from the crowd.

Fast forward nearly two and a half years and Williams, now 39, has still not added to her tally of slams, having since also lost the 2019 Wimbledon decider to Simona Halep and the 2019 US Open final to Bianca Andreescu.

Williams has has only won one title, the 2020 Auckland Classic, since her last major success at Melbourne Park in 2017.

The clock is ticking.

And, given the acrimonious events of 2018 in New York, the tennis world will be watching even more closely than usual on Thursday.

"I think we both have had closure, and we have reached out to each other - I have definitely reached out," said Williams.

"She's a great competitor and she's a cool cat."

The Japanese-born resident of Beverly Hills is also a very successful and wealthy one.

The third-seeded Osaka now owns three major titles, including the 2019 Australian Open, and last year was tagged the world's highest-paid sportswoman.

The 23-year-old has won two of her three previous matches against Williams, although the American was successful the last time they met in Toronto in 2019.

Williams will be battle hardened for the semi-final, having needed three sets to get past powerful Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the round of 16 then pusting Halep, the world No.2, 6-3 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

"I'm happy to be here," said Williams.

"I get to keep going and that's obviously the goal.

"Obviously 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."

Osaka was on the brink of exiting the tournament in the fourth round before rallying to save two match points in a 4-6 6-4 7-5 thriller against 2020 Open finalist Garbine Muguruza.

She backed that up with a 6-2 6-2 drubbing of Taiwanese surprise packet Hsieh Su-Wei.

As the first player through to the women's semis, Osaka had the luxury of sitting back to watch Williams do battle with Halep.

"If there's an interesting match to watch, I'll watch it," she said.

"It's just kind of interesting to watch her form. You know what I mean?

"For me, I grew up watching Serena, Federer, Nadal.

"It's just more of a habit than anything.

"But I feel like everyone in the tournament watches her."