Osaka the next hurdle in Serena’s quest for 24th Grand Slam

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Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have long moved on from their tempestuous 2018 US Open title match but that will do nothing to dampen the suspense ahead of their blockbuster Australian Open semi-final on Thursday.

Williams was handed three code violations, the last of which resulted in a game penalty, in a straight-sets defeat to Osaka, who was booed throughout the final game and trophy ceremony by an angry Flushing Meadows crowd.

The American, who later wrote an apology letter to Osaka, is bidding for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and said she was looking forward to facing the Japanese third seed again.

“Well, I think we both have had closure, and we have reached out to each other. I have definitely reached out,” the 39-year-old said.

“I think she’s a great competitor and a cool cat.”

World number three Osaka has won three Grand Slams and last year surpassed her childhood idol Williams as the world’s highest-paid female athlete, according to Forbes.

The 23-year-old has won two of her three previous Tour encounters with Williams, although the American triumphed the last time they met in a WTA event in Toronto in 2019.

When asked if she would be watching the film of Williams to prepare herself for the match, Osaka said she never stops watching her.

“For me, I grew up watching Serena… It’s just more of a habit than anything,” she added. “But I feel like everyone in the tournament watches her.”

In the other semi-final, surprise package Karolina Muchova will take on US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady, with both players looking to earn a spot in their maiden major final.

“I think I will have to bring my A-game to play with (Brady) because she is playing amazing matches,” said Muchova, who has won all eight of her eight matches this season. “I will try to play my best.”