The Australian Open women’s semifinal between Serena Williams and eventual champion Naomi Osaka not only wowed the returning crowd at Melbourne Park but also set new viewership records across the country.
According to some viewership numbers shared by former Australian tennis star Rennae Stubbs, the first women’s semifinal averaged a whopping 1.41 million viewers on ESPN2.
What’s more, the viewership number peaked at 1.63 million during the final 15 minutes (11.15-11.30pm ET) of the last-four clash, which the Japanese World Number 3 won in straight sets.
Even though the match, billed as a titanic contest between two of the fiercest rivals in the women’s game, didn’t extend to a deciding set as many would have anticipated, it did have its fair share of thrills and spills to keep the viewers engaged till the last shot.
Going into the clash tied 2-2 on the head-to-head count, Osaka dropped her opening service game against the 23-time Grand Slam champion. However, it didn’t take her long to break back and there was simply no stopping the Japanese thereafter.
Riding high on confidence after winning the first set, Osaka got an early break in the second and soon ran up a lead that seemed virtually unassailable for the American.
However, the 39-year-old Serena did try to stage a valiant fightback with another break of serve in the latter half of the second set but it wasn’t enough as the Japanese seized back the initiative to close out a 6-3, 6-4 win.
It was the second straight victory that Osaka has scored over the American in a Grand Slam tournament. The first came in the title clash of the 2019 US Open.
In more mind-boggling viewership data that the former doubles World Number 1 shared, the full telecast on February 18, which ran till after 2 am ET (Eastern Time), averaged 806,000 viewers, making it the most-watched Australian Open window since the 2017 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Federer’s five-set victory had logged a record viewership of 1.09 million.
Coming to the women’s semifinal broadcast this year, it was the most-watched since 2017 when the Williams sisters won their last-four clashes to set up a final date.