Just before leaving Melbourne Central, Serena Williams he rectifies his step and turns to the stands. After a panoramic look and a heartfelt salute to the Australian crowd, 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 she has just surrendered in the semifinals (6-4 and 6-4, in 1h 15m) and, therefore, the dream of the 24th not only disappears again, but each day seems more distant for a player than the next 26 of September will be 40 years old and the ammunition is running out. There are already 11 rounds, and as many frustrations. The latter important, since the North American had recovered the high level that it had longed for for a long time.
“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 gluing machine in growing phase and more and more serene for game, charisma and impact. Also for his speech. “People do not remember the runners-up, in the finals is where you distinguish yourself,” he adds before Saturday’s clash (9.30) with Jennifer Brady (6-4, 3-6 and 6-4 to Karolina Muchova). If he wins, it would mean the second title in Australia, after 2018, and the fourth big of his career. “When I was younger, my goal was to make history. I wanted to be the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam ”, she continues; “Now I live life, and maybe later I will value everything I’m doing.”
Her tennis recalls that of the American woman, who since her return to the circuit after having premiered maternity 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 by and the dream of reaching Margaret Court’s record of 24 begins to seem like a chimera.
“I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I just made a lot of mistakes today [24 frente a 21]That was the difference ”, he 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 rules. 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 was progressing in 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 opted for service. Unapproachable with the first ones (85% of 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. He replied in the first set with a double break and four straight games, and she 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 a result that deprives Williams of the great goal.
Pain, then, for a wounded champion who has historically fed on victory and now, near her goodbye, sees how the trains slip away. “Because of how you have 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 close his presentation after three minutes.