Just before leaving Melbourne headquarters, Serena Williams rectified her pace and turned towards the stands. After a panoramic look and a heartfelt greeting to the Australian public, the 23-year-old champion walks into the locker room with her hand on her heart and her head down because her friend Naomi Osaka just gave her up (6-4 and 6-4, in 1h 15m) And, therefore, the dream of the 24th not only disappears again, but every day it seems more distant for a player who will turn 40 on September 26 and who is running out of ammunition. There are already 11 rounds, and as many frustrations. The latter important, because the North American had recovered the high level that she longed for for a long time.
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"I feel bad when I beat her" says the Japanese while remembering that she grew up watching Williams' triumphs. Now she is the inspiration, social speaker and media icon; a hitter in a growing phase and more and more serene by play, charisma and impact . She remembers her tennis to that of the American woman, who since her return to the circuit after having released motherhood in September 2017, has lost eleven bullets. The last in Australia, the same scene that attended his last great sporting triumph. She tries and Serena tries, but time flies and the dream of reaching Margaret Court's record of 24 begins to seem like a chimera.
“Today I made a lot of mistakes [24 vs 21], that was the difference,” she says in his dialogue with journalists. “I felt good. He was hitting the ball well throughout the tournament. I played the first two games well, I had many opportunities ”, the legendary tennis player reproaches herself.
Forces fail, young women push, Osaka governs. He signed four finals from 2018 to 2019, but then he has lost hegemony and the defeat against the Japanese was the spitting image of the transition, of the relief in the reign. While one gains brightness, the other sharpens its twilight phase. And that during these two weeks, Williams has competed as he had not done in a long time. If in the last majors she progressed by jerks, pushed by the weight of her splendid history, in this Open her game has rebounded and she has scored victories of merit against Halep or Sabalenka, for example. Little to do against Osaka, in any case.
The Japanese dispatched her with an authoritarian exercise, in a duel that passed with sticks, without rhythm and opting for service. Unapproachable with the first (85% success), Osaka snatched the serve of his rival four times (in the four opportunities he had) and despite the blur of the eight double faults, he aborted any attempt to answer. She replied in the first set with a double break and four straight games, and neutralized the American in the second with an immediate response when Serena counterattacked in the eighth game. Action and reaction. The ball at dizzying speed, with serves close to 200 km / h, by both, and an outcome that deprives Williams of the great goal.
Pain, then, for an injured champion who has historically fed on the victory and now, near his goodbye, he sees how the trains escape him. “Because of how you've left the track, some wonder if you were firing yourself,” they ask him. "I do not know, but if I did, I would not tell anyone," he resolves before tears prevent him from continuing to speak and closes his presentation after three minutes.
Australian Open: results (Thursday 18) and order of play ( Friday 19) .