Australian Open 2021: Serena Williams faces Naomi Osaka for place in final

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Naomi Osaka (right) beat Serena Williams to win her first major title at the US Open in 2018

Serena Williams will continue her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam trophy against title favourite Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday.

American Williams, 39, has rediscovered her best form at Melbourne Park but faces a tough test against Osaka.

She has not played Osaka at a Grand Slam since the Japanese beat her in a dramatic 2018 US Open final.

The match was overshadowed by Williams’ argument with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams called the umpire a “thief” after he deducted a point from her, and Osaka was reduced to tears by the crowd booing during the presentation ceremony.

“I think we both have had closure, and we have reached out to each other,” Williams said of the match.

“I have definitely reached out. I think she’s a great competitor and she’s a cool cat.”

Third seed Osaka, 23, has won a further two Grand Slam titles since that meeting – including the Australian Open in 2019 – but lost the last match she played against Williams in straight sets at the Canadian Open later that year.

Williams, the 10th seed, has shown great form in Melbourne as she aims to equal Margaret Court’s 24 major singles titles and reached the semi-finals by seeing off second seed Simona Halep in straight sets.

Both players have only dropped one set so far this tournament.

Their match on Rod Laver Arena will begin at 03:00 GMT on Thursday – and with the lockdown in Melbourne set to be lifted will be played in front of a restricted number of fans.

In the other semi-final, American 22nd seed Jennifer Brady takes on Czech Karolina Muchova, with both aiming to reach a Grand Slam final for the first time.

Muchova, the 25th seed, produced a shock when she knocked out world number one and home favourite Ashleigh Barty in the last round.

You can follow live text commentary of Williams v Osaka on the BBC Sport website and watch highlights on BBC Two at 15:30 GMT on Thursday.

World number one v the qualifier

Aslan Karatsev
Aslan Karatsev is aiming to become the first Russian to win a Grand Slam since Marat Safin in 2005

Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic has won back-to-back titles in Melbourne and standing in the way of the world number one reaching a third successive Australian Open final is a qualifier the top seed knew little about before this tournament.

Russian Aslan Karatsev, the world number 114, had never reached the main draw of a Grand Slam before his remarkable run to the semi-finals this month.

The 27-year-old, who could potentially set up an all-Russian final with Daniil Medvedev, has already knocked out three seeds and played eight matches to get this far.

“I have not seen him play honestly before the Australian Open,” said Djokovic, who is looking to win his 18th Grand Slam title.

“I have seen him play during the tournament here, and he impressed me, he impressed a lot of people.

“His movement, his firepower from baseline. Flat backhand, Russian school, great backhand. Looks to run around. Also hits some good forehands, dictate the play.

“It’s going to be our first encounter. (I am) Hoping I can be physically fit and looking forward to it.”

You can listen to Djokovic v Karatsev on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 08:00 GMT and follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website.

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