Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams Always Bring Intensity — Relive Their 4 Memorable Matches

As one of the few indisputable GOATs we know of (see also: Biles, Phelps), Serena Williams has forced the entire sport of tennis to rise to her level and has blazed a trail for other tennis players of color to follow. Case in point: Naomi Osaka, one of Williams's most prominent current competitors, has said she "wouldn't be here" if not for Serena and Venus Williams breaking down those barriers. Osaka's father, meanwhile, said he kickstarted her career by following the example set by the Williams sisters. Flash forward to 2021, and 23-year-old Osaka is a star in her own right with three Grand Slams under her belt. And while she chases Williams, and Williams chases that elusive, record-tying 24th Grand Slam, their head-to-head matches have become can't-miss entertainment.

In honor of these incredible athletes squaring off in the Australian Open semi-finals tomorrow, take a trip down memory lane with us and relive Osaka and Williams's four previous matches, from the infamous 2018 US Open Final (oh yeah, we'll talk about that) to their latest exhibition matchup in Australia. Get ready for some great tennis and intense competition from two of the best athletes in the world.

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Osaka Beats Williams at the 2018 Miami Open

In their first-ever match, Osaka beat Williams 6-3, 6-2 at the 2018 Miami Open, which was only Williams's second tournament back from maternity leave. We can only imagine how surreal the experience was for Osaka, who was facing off against her idol for the first time. (She captioned a photo from the game "OMG.") At the time, Osaka was still under the radar, a star in the making, while Williams was proving to the world that she could be just as dominant after her pregnancy as she was before. Williams used it as fuel for the next time they went head-to-head. "I was breastfeeding at the time," Williams said before the US Open Final, later that year. "I can only go up from that match."

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Osaka Wins the US Open During Williams's Rule Dispute

When Osaka and Williams next met, it was at the 2018 US Open Final. Osaka made history the moment she stepped on the court, becoming the first Japanese woman to make a final of a major; Williams, of course, was going for what would have been a historic 24th major win. Osaka came out on top of the hard-fought match, but it was Williams's intense argument with the chair umpire that made headlines, leaving her match marred with code violations and causing the crowd to boo through the trophy ceremony. Williams put her disappointment aside to comfort a distraught Osaka on her first Grand Slam, telling the audience, "She played well. And this is her first Grand Slam . . . Let's give everyone the credit where credit's due. Let's not boo anymore. We're going to get through this, and let's be positive. So congratulations, Naomi."

It was an unfortunate way to conclude Osaka's first major win, but it was only the beginning for the new star. She's gone on to notch two more Grand Slams in the years since.

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Williams Beats Osaka in a Rematch at the 2019 Rogers Cup

Osaka and Williams next met a year later, at the Rogers Cup in Canada. The match was once again closely contested, with Williams's top-notch serves eventually giving her the victory in the 6-3, 6-4 match. "We haven't played since New York, which was a really good match for her," Williams said afterward. "I just wanted to come out and try and win a set this time because she's beaten me twice. I just wanted to do the best I could today."

Williams Beats Osaka in a 2021 Exhibition
Getty | Brenton Edwards / Contributor

Williams Beats Osaka in a 2021 Exhibition

Williams evened her record against Osaka at A Day at the Drive, a Jan. 28 exhibition match the players used as a tuneup for the Australian Open. After putting Osaka away 6-2, 2-6, 10-7, Williams expressed gratitude just to be able to play in a packed stadium. "We haven't played in front of a crowd in over a year, so it's been a really long time," Williams said afterward. "This was great." Less than a month later, they're primed to face off in their highest-stakes match since 2018: the Australian Open semifinals.