Australian Open: Serena Williams sets up semi-final showdown with Naomi Osaka after beating Simona Halep

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Seven-time champion Serena Williams was at her aggressive best in her Australian Open victory over Simona Halep to set up a blockbuster semi-final against Naomi Osaka.

The 10th-seeded Williams posted a 6-3, 6-3 defeat of the world number two in Tuesday evening’s quarter-final on Rod Laver Arena.

The win sees Williams return to the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time since her most recent major singles triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

Thursday’s semi-final against Osaka promises to be an enticing encounter, with the Japanese third seed and 2019 winner advancing courtesy of a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory over Hsieh Su-Wei.

“I definitely think this is the best match I’ve played this tournament, for sure,” Williams said in her on-court interview.

“Going up against the number two in the world, I knew that I had to do better and that’s what I did. I’m excited.”

Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th major singles championship, said she had been monitoring Osaka’s progress throughout the tournament.

“I’ve been watching her, I’m sure she’s been watching me,” she said.

“I feel like this is such a good opportunity for me to keep doing my best as the first grand slam (tournament) of the year.

“For me, I had an incredibly long, arduous off-season, so I’m really happy with, honestly, every win I get.”

Williams and Halep were playing each other for the first time since the Romanian’s win in the 2019 Wimbledon final.

On Tuesday evening, both players produced breathtaking power with their groundstrokes off the baseline in the first set.

This was perhaps best illustrated in the second game when Williams bludgeoned a crosscourt backhand to bring up a breakpoint 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.

Williams comes from behind in the second set

Williams may have 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.

Halep 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 levelling the match at one set apiece.

Williams, however, was unfazed and she proceeded to win the next five games.

Her return of serve in the fifth game of the set put Halep on the back foot and she broke back when her opponent sent a forehand into the net.

After holding serve to level the set at 3-3, Williams had several breakpoints in the following game before finally converting to once again assume control.

Another break of the Halep serves at 5-3 rounded out Williams’s performance, earning her safe passage through to the Australian Open semi-finals for the ninth time in her brilliant career.

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