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Serena Williams beats Naomi Osaka to reach Rogers Cup semifinals but Simona Halep retires with leg injury

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 10 Aug 2019
  • Serena Williams beats Naomi Osaka to reach Rogers Cup semifinals
  • Simona Halep retires against Marie Bouzkova in Toronto
Serena Williams served her way to a first victory over Naomi Osaka (PA Sports)

Serena Williams to face Marie Bouzkova in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup after defeating Naomi Osaka.

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Serena Williams got her first victory over Naomi Osaka to book a place in the Rogers Cup semifinals but will not be facing Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final rematch after the Romanian was forced to retire due to injury.

Williams came into the match vs Osaka having lost both their previous meetings, in straight sets no less - the younger woman having beaten her in Miami in 2018 (when Williams was playing just her second tournament after giving birth) and in fraught circumstances in the final of the US Open six months later.

Williams and Osaka meet at the net (PA Sports)
Osaka had outplayed Williams on both of those occasions, but she was unable to do so this time - perhaps because Williams was free of the things that held her back in those previous encounters, or perhaps because she, Osaka, lacked the same free-swinging confidence she had reason to feel in those matches. What is certain is that, on a windy day in which the conditions had frustrated Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova to the point of defeat, Williams served much better than she had done during previous matches against Osaka. She and Osaka landed the same percentage of first serves, but 12 of the 39 Williams landed were aces, while Osaka was unable to find a single delivery Williams could not get a racquet on, nor could she manufacture a break point (Williams had five). Indeed, Osaka only managed to take Williams to deuce in two of the ten service games the three-time Rogers Cup champion played. 

Williams had had to come back from a break down in all four of her sets so far at the Rogers Cup, but she afforded Osaka no slow start or early nerves today. Even when Williams was pegged back from 40-0 to deuce as she served for the match, the point in the match the American was able to produce her ninth ace on match point no. 4.

‘I knew her game a little bit more, so that's a little easier,’ Williams said afterwards. ‘And, you know, I'm just overall a little bit better. I watch her a lot. And I was just… I know what I need to do to hopefully try to get a win today, and it helped a little bit.’

Osaka has the consolation that she will definitely return to world no. 1 on Monday. Ashleigh Barty’s second-round defeat to Sofia Kenin opened the door for the Australian Open champion, and Karolina Pliskova’s defeat to Bianca Andreescu in Friday’s quarterfinals sealed the deal.

‘I honestly don't really think there was ups and downs,’ Osaka said afterwards. ‘I think in the first set we were kind of just serving it out, and then I was the one that -- I don't even think I dipped. I just think that I gave her too many second serve looks, and she just did what she does. 

‘But, yeah, I'm not really mad at this... I think I played pretty well. And she just played amazing, which that's what she does.’

It was Williams's 33rd singles win at the Rogers Cup - a record - and in that it was a statement win over a player who had dominated their last encounter, it was a warning shot across Simona Halep's bows, with a rematch of the Wimbledon final in which Halep stunned Williams in straight sets strongly indicated.

In the end however it was qualifier Marie Bouzkova whose improbable run has taken her all the way to a semifinal confrontation with Williams, as Halep was forced to retire after a set due to injury.

Bouzkova, who only recently broke into the top 100 after steady progress up the rankings over the past couple of seasons, hasn’t dropped a set at the Rogers Cup and got her first top-10 win over Sloane Stephens in the second round. The Czech raced to a 4-0 lead before Halep recovered to level the set, but after Bouzkova won the final two games, Halep retired with a lower left leg injury.

The Romanian had consulted the trainer due to her Achilles tendon, a perennial problem area for her, during her first match in Toronto, a three-set battle against Jennifer Brady, but had looked very good in a straight-sets victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday.

‘I felt [Achilles problems] since the first match here. Today I felt it more, so that's why I decided to retire,’ Halep said. 

‘Tomorrow, it would have been Serena and it is not easy.’

Bouzkova and Williams will be facing off for the first time as the American bids to reach her first WTA Tour final outside the majors since winning Rome in May 2016.

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Serena Williams beats Naomi Osaka to reach Rogers Cup semifinals but Simona Halep retires with leg injury

Serena Williams will face Marie Bouzkova in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto after scoring her first victory over Naomi Osaka in three attempts while Simona Halep was forced to retire trailing 4-6

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