The stakes were high as Naomi Osaka bested Serena Williams in the semifinals of the Australian Open, keeping Williams from the record-tying 24th Grand Slam title she’s been chasing for years. “I was a little kid watching her play, and just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream,” 23-year-old Osaka said of Williams after the match, which she won in straight sets. The two last met in a Grand Slam tournament in the finals of the 2018 U.S. Open, when Osaka netted her first Grand Slam win. “Of course, every time I play her I feel like it’s something I’ll definitely remember a lot,” Osaka added in her post-match press conference. “For me, I want her to play forever. Well, that’s the little kid in me.” Osaka will face Jennifer Brady in the finals, chasing her fourth Grand Slam title — and maybe by then she’ll have her biggest cheerleader, rapper boyfriend Cordae, back in the stands.
Williams, meanwhile, left to a standing ovation from the Melbourne crowd, who had been cheering her on for a third set. As fans and reporters speculated about her retirement, the 39-year-old dismissed questions about it in an emotional press conference. “I don’t know,” she said, asked if that exit was a good-bye. “If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.” She then looked to tear up during the next question and left the press conference early.