After consigning Serena Williams to another unflattering Grand Slam exit, Naomi Osaka has said that she wants Serena to go on playing “forever.”
The Japanese World Number 3 found her mojo after initial hiccups to tame the 23-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets in the first semifinal of the Australian Open on Thursday.
After conceding a break in her opening service game, Osaka let fly screaming winners off her handle, leaving the veteran Serena in shock and awe and prolonging her agonizing quest for a 24th Grand Slam title that will take her to the joint highest career haul alongside yesteryear stalwart Margaret Court.
The 39-year-old Serena walked off the court with her head bowed, unsure whether she would return to Melbourne Park next year.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, the Japanese star said that she would never want her idol to stop playing tennis. “I want her to play forever. That’s the little kid in me. But yeah…,” the World Number 3 said.
Serena was one of the biggest inspirations in Osaka’s early years in the game, and there’s a lot in Osaka’s game that begs comparisons with the 39-year-old.
Booming serves, powerful groundstrokes, and leaping forays into the net, which are the signature traits associated with Serena, are also at the core of Osaka’s game.
In fact, it was after watching Serena in action that the Haitian father of the Japanese star decided to school her in tennis.
The 23-year-old has made no secret of her admiration for the American, and the two were caught exchanging pleasantries during and after the exhibition tie in Adelaide ahead of the Australian Open.
Osaka later took to her Instagram handle, juxtaposing her first picture with Serena with her latest, which was at Adelaide then.
Going into her last-four battle against the American, Osaka was tied 2-2 in head-to-head battles, underlining their fierce rivalries on the court.
However, with her win on Thursday, the Japanese made it two wins out of two in Grand Slams, with the earlier one coming in the championship clash of the 2018 US Open.