Australian Open 2020: Serena Williams gets unwanted Naomi Osaka draw

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) /

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are in the same quarter of the draw for the Australian Open, an outcome neither player would have been hoping for.

If Serena Williams is going to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, she will have to do it the hard way.

The ASB Classic winner has been drawn in the same quarter of the draw as defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, who also defeated Serena in their infamous US Open final in 2018.

Having won her tune up event in Auckland, Serena comes into Melbourne as tournament favorite, although her task has now become more difficult.

Her first-round Australian Open opponent is Anastasia Potapova and the first seed she can meet is in round three where China’s Wang Qiang, who she beat comfortably at the US Open last year, is the potential opponent.

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That is when it starts getting more difficult. Her close friend Caroline Wozniacki, playing her final tournament, is among her possible fourth-round opponents, as is the highly rated Dayana Yastremska and Great Britain’s Johanna Konta.

Then, if Serena and Osaka have won their respective sections of the draw, they would have to do battle in the quarterfinals.

They have to win their first four matches for that potential meeting to take place, but it is nonetheless a significant blow to both players, who if they did have to meet would much rather have had to do that in the final, or even the semifinals.

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Serena’s sister Venus Williams faces a Wimbledon rematch against teenage sensation Coco Gauff and Osaka could play the winner of that match as early as round 3.

Japanese star Osaka, whose opener is against Marie Bouzkova, and Gauff had a touching moment after their round 3 meeting at the US Open which inspired praise from around the world, including from singer Beyonce.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep starts against Jennifer Brady, who defeated Ash Barty at the Brisbane International last week.

The Romanian’s potential opponents prior to reaching the semifinals include Belinda Bencic, Aryna Sabalenka, Elise Mertens, Karolina Muchova and the in-form Danielle Collins.

Brisbane winner Karolina Pliskova is in the same quarter of the draw as Elina Svitolina, Amanda Anisimova, Marketa Vondrousova and Kiki Bertens.

The first quarter of the draw is arguably the weakest and that will please home crowd favorite and number one seed Ash Barty.

Barty begins against Lesia Tsurenko and looks likely to have a reasonable path to the quarterfinals, at which point she may have to play Petra Kvitova or Madison Keys.

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A competitive tournament in the women’s singles just got a whole lot more interesting, even if it was not the draw outcome Serena Williams or Naomi Osaka wanted.