8 things you need to know about the Serena Williams vs. Naomi Osaka showdown

Naomi Osaka shakes hands with Serena Williams.
Naomi Osaka shakes hands with Serena Williams after winning their match at the Miami Open on March 21, 2018, in Key Biscayne, Fla. Osaka won 6-3, 6-2.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)
Share via

Why eight? Because things-you-need-to-know columns like this routinely draw on random or tangential numbers, and, well, Serena Williams is two wins away from an eighth Australian Open championship. Here’s a primer on Wednesday’s much-anticipated semifinal between the 10th-seeded Williams and third-seeded Naomi Osaka.

1. This is Williams’ 10th attempt to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam event titles. Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam, surpassing Steffi Graf, in Australia in 2017, but has fallen in the finals in four subsequent Slam events, and in the semis in one other.

2. Williams’ most notable Finals loss since winning the ’17 Australian Open was the U.S. Open the following year, when Osaka upset Williams 6-2, 6-4 for her first Slam title. The match famously included a second-set meltdown by Williams in which she screamed at the chair umpire after he issued her a warning for illegally communicating with her coach. A slammed racket led to a point violation and her verbal abuse of the official led to Williams being docked a game.


“I’ve never cheated in my life.” Williams said in a lengthy tirade. “You owe me an apology. I have a daughter. I stand for what’s right.”

3. The ’18 U.S. Open is the only previous Grand Slam matchup between the two women. They have met in three other tournaments, with Williams winning twice and Osaka once.

Paul Annacone aims to help revive U.S. men’s tennis as a new member of the player development staff of the Southern California section of the U.S. Tennis Assn.

Feb. 17, 2021

4. The 23-year-old Osaka is a machine when she reaches the semifinals of a Slam event; she has yet to lose in six semifinal or final appearances (2018 and ‘20 U.S. Opens, ’19 Australian Open).

5. Times columnist LZ Granderson has likened the showdown — cleverly and correctly, we believe — to tennis’ version of the Super Bowl LV faceoff between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes . . .

6. . . . “except the women play defense, too,” tweeted Granderson.

7. Former Harvard-Westlake basketball star and longtime NBA center Jason Collins concurs.


8. You don’t have to stay up all night to watch the match — unless you live in, say, Slovenia or Dubai.