Ahead of Wednesday’s Australian Open semi-finals match, tennis superstar Serena Williams remarked at the greatness of her opponent, Naomi Osaka and how much she’s anticipating a difficult bout in their fourth official head-to-head.
On Tuesday, 39-year-old Williams squarely defeated Simona Halep, the second ranked Women’s Tennis Association player in the world, to advance passed the Aussie quarterfinals. Osaka, the No. 3 ranked player, overwhelmed Chinese tennis pro Su-Wei Hsieh to advance on Monday, according ESPN.
This week, Williams answered questions about her thoughts in preparing for a match against the 23-year-old during a post-match interview.
“I feel good, I feel like I’m here, I’m happy to be here, and I gotta keep going, that’s obviously the goal,” Williams said. “Obviously, I have an incredible opponent to play, so it’ll be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game, I’m going to have to.”
Williams acknowledged Osaka is an “incredible opponent,” and she’s honored to compete in the semi-final match regardless of the opposition.
“I feel like she does everything well, she has a good serve, she has a great return, she’s strong on both sides,” Williams said of Osaka.
With over 20 years of professional experience, Williams said that she was impressed with Osaka’s perseverance and endurance.
The matchup between the two tennis stars marks a competition between the two highest-paid women athletes in the world, according to Forbes. Williams, arguably the most accomplished athlete in the sport, has more Grand Slam titles (23) than any man or woman in the modern era and would like to advance to the final to try for a record-tying 24th. Rising star Osaka became the first ever Asian-born player to ascend to the No. 1 spot in 2019, and she’s looking to win a second straight Grand Slam title.
In 2018, the top tennis athletes battled in a compelling, yet controversial 2018 U.S. Open final. Osaka came out on top after umpire Carlos Ramos issued three code violations against Williams. In the victory, Osaka launched to stardom and she secured her first Grand Slam title.
Williams addressed the polarizing match in a 2019 essay for Harper’s Bazaar and shared a note she sent to Osaka that read:
“I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another Black female athlete.”
“It’s so good to see just someone that is so inspiring on both things,” she said.
As Blavity previously reported, Osaka was named the Associated Press’ Athlete of The Year recently for her “unwavering activism.” At last year’s U.S. Open, she wore the names of the seven Black victims of violent attacks on varying face masks, which included Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and Ahmaud Arbery.
The Haitian-Japanese tennis star said after the win that she feels a responsibility to use her platform to encourage conversations about social issues.
“[W]atching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake (to name just a few) in the summer broke my heart. I am proud of my U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues,” Osaka wrote in an email interview.