In their first meeting since last year’s disputed US Open final, Serena Williams captured her first career victory against Naomi Osaka. She defeated the World No. 2 in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to becoming the winningest WTA player in the Open Era at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. By advancing to the semis on Friday night, Serena now has 33 wins at this major Canadian stop – besting the previous record of 32 held by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
It also the first time in Serena’s career that she has beaten Osaka in three career meetings. The 23-time Grand Slam champion will now face Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova in Saturday’s second semi-final in Toronto scheduled for Saturday night.
Williams and Osaka lived up to the billing on Friday night. The two held serve through the first six games, which Osaka managing to stave off a couple break point opportunities to hold at 3-3. However, in the Japanese’s next service game, she wasn’t as fortunate. She committed a double fault to give away a break point that Williams would convert on another unforced error from Osaka. From there, now leading 5-3, Serena would close it out with an unreturnable serve.
In the second set, Serena continued to dictate the pace. In Osaka’s second service game, the three-time Rogers Cup champion once again converted on a double break point on swinging volley. Later in the set, leading 3-2, Williams converted a crucial game point on a powerful two-hand backhand. She would maintain that lead once again by closing out the eighth game of the set with two aces. In the final game of the match, Osaka managed to save three match points before Serena finally converted on her fourth attempt with an ace.
Williams has now reached the semi-finals at Rogers Cup in eight of nine appearances at this event. The only time she was unsuccessful was back in 2005, when she was forced to withdraw before her third-round match against Flavia Pennetta with a knee injury.
As for Osaka, this loss might only sting for a while. Despite lacking a win against a Top 10 opponent since scoring three in winning the Australian Open, Osaka will be regain the World No. 1 ranking. With Ashleigh Barty’s stunning loss in the second round and Pliskova defeat earlier in the day, the 21 year old from Japan did enough at Rogers Cup to move to the top of the rankings set to be released on Monday.