Melbourne: American 23-time Grand Slam Champion Serena Willams reached the semi-finals of the 2021 Australian Open beating Romanian world No. 2 Simona Halep in straight sets at the Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday. Williams beat Halep 6-3, 6-3 to set up a last-four clash against Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka.
This is Williams’ 40th Grand Slam semi-final as she looks to equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 career victories in majors. It is also the first time the 39-year-old, the seven-time Australian Open champion, reached the semi-final at Melbourne Park since she won the tournament in 2017.
Both players produced breathtaking power with their groundstrokes off the baseline in the first set on Tuesday evening. This was perhaps best illustrated in the second game when Williams bludgeoned a crosscourt backhand to bring up a break-point on Halep’s serve.
Halep went long with a forehand return to drop serve and trail 0-2, but she immediately broke back, and by the start of the fifth game, the first set was back on serve. With a semi-final berth on the line, the tension of the match was clear to see. More than once Williams screamed out “C’mon!”, as she tried to regain control of the contest. She was able to do so when she broke Halep for a second time, before holding serve to establish a 5-2 lead. Aside from the break, Williams had rarely been threatened by Halep on her serve. She held to love in the ninth game to claim the first set in 36 minutes.
Willams dictated terms in the first set, but it was a different story early in the second. She posted her only double fault of the match and made three unforced errors in her opening service game to gift Halep a service break and a 2-0 advantage. She failed to consolidate the break in the next game, but she broke Williams again in the fourth to lead 3-1 and move a step closer to level the match at one set apiece. Williams, however, was unfazed and she proceeded to win the next five games.
In men’s singles, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev continued his dream run packing off Bulgarian 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 and reaching the semi-finals. Karatsev will face either Serbian world No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic or German sixth seed Alexander Zverev in the semi-final.
Earlier, Osaka eased into the semi-final with a straight-set win over South Korea’s Hsieh Su-Wei. The three-time Grand Slam champion seeded third in the tournament, beat Hsieh 6-2, 6-2. This is the first time since she won the tournament in 2019 that Osaka made the last four at the Australian Open. She has gone on to win a Grand Slam every time she made it to the semi-finals.