Japan’s Naomi Osaka mercilessly stopped Serena Williams’s latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title on Thursday, as Novak Djokovic wrote the final chapter of qualifier Aslan Karatsev’s fairy-tale run.
Fans returned after a five-day coronavirus lockdown in time to witness an emotional exit from Williams, Jennifer Brady’s win over Karolina Muchova and top-ranked Djokovic preserving his perfect semifinal record at Karatsev’s expense.
Triple major-winner Osaka, 23, again proved Williams’s nemesis with a one-sided 6-3, 6-4 win which increased questions as to whether the American, 39, will ever match Margaret Court’s all-time record for Slam singles titles.
Williams put her hand on her heart as she acknowledged a standing ovation on Rod Laver Arena, and later walked out of her post-match press conference in tears, saying: “I’m done.”
The American has lost four Grand Slam finals since winning her 23rd in Melbourne in 2017, and taking the lead over Osaka would have given her a golden opportunity against Brady, who is into her first major decider.
But after going 0-2 down in the first set, Osaka reeled off five straight games to take charge against a despairing Williams and canter into the final.