Jennifer Brady will contest her first grand slam final after outlasting Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open.

A beaten semi-finalist at last year's US Open, American Brady took down fellow seed Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4 in Melbourne on Thursday.

In a nervy finish, Brady wasted four match points before converting the fifth to secure a showdown with former world number one and three-time slam champion Naomi Osaka in Saturday's decider.

Brady (26) had dropped the fewest games en route to the semis and the 22nd seed looked like the player to beat in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena.

Despite Muchova recovering from a slow start to level the set at 2-2, Brady was not to be denied behind a strong first serve, even though her unforced-error tally reached 17 compared to just eight on her opponent's racquet.

Just like she did when upstaging world number one Ash Barty in the quarter-finals, 25th seed Muchova composed herself against the high-octane Brady.

Settling into a rhythm, Muchova was almost flawless in the second set, which only featured once unforced error, while the Czech won all of her second-serve points as she only dropped one point on first serve.

Muchova's measured aggression troubled Brady as the semi-final clash headed to a tense decider.

But Brady managed to slow down and settle back into her stride, an early break securing the advantage that the 25-year-old never relinquished in an engrossing finish.

 

Data Slam: ​Another finals debutant
Brady is the seventh woman to make her debut in a grand slam final in the past nine majors, after Osaka (won 2018 US Open), Barty (won 2019 French Open), Marketa Vondrousova (lost 2019 French Open), Bianca Andreescu (won 2019 US Open), Sofia Kenin (won 2020 Australian Open) and Iga Swiatek (won 2020 Roland Garros).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Brady – 20/38
Muchova – 21/29

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Brady – 8/2
Muchova – 1/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Brady – 3/3
Muchova – 3/7

Serena Williams refused to confirm whether she made her last Australian Open appearance after breaking down in tears and leaving her news conference following a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka.

Bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles – having last won a major in 2017 – Williams was overpowered 6-3 6-4 by third seed Osaka in Melbourne on Thursday.

It was Williams' first semi-final defeat at the Australian Open following eight consecutive victories in the final four of the year's opening slam.

The 39-year-old American star cut an emotional figure afterwards on Rod Laver Arena, where she held her hand on her chest and waved to the crowd after fans were allowed to attend following a five-day coronavirus shutdown.

Asked about the moment, seven-time Australian Open champion Williams told reporters: "The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see."

When pressed if it was a Melbourne farewell, Williams replied: "I don't know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

A tearful Williams then suddenly ended her news conference after being asked about the match.

Williams was visibly and vocally frustrated against Osaka after seeing an early 2-0 lead slip.

Osaka reeled off five consecutive games and six of the next seven to close out the set before taking complete control against the former world number one.

Williams finished with 24 unforced errors against the three-time slam champion and 2019 Australian Open winner.

At the start of her post-match duties, Williams said: "I wouldn't say I was nervous. The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today.

"Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love. I just made so many errors."

"I felt like I was hitting well," Williams added. "I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities.

"I don't know. Just made too many mistakes there, easy mistakes. Not like I was on the run or anything, they were just easy, easy mistakes."

Serena Williams' quest for a record-equalling 24th grand slam title has been delayed again after being overpowered 6-3 6-4 by third seed Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semi-finals.

Stuck on 23 slam championships since reigning supreme at Melbourne Park in 2017, Williams was hoping to move within a step of matching Margaret Court's record.

But the 39-year-old former world number one was taken down by three-time major champion Osaka in a blockbuster battle of the big hitters on Thursday.

Japanese star Osaka will now face either Jennifer Brady or Karolina Muchova in Saturday's final as she eyes her second Australian Open crown.

Osaka – the youngest player remaining in the draw – initially struggled under the beaming Melbourne sun as fans returned to Rod Laver Arena following a five-day state-wide lockdown after a coronavirus outbreak.

She was in all sorts, struggling on serve and tallying five unforced errors through two forgettable games as Williams raced out to a 2-0 lead.

Osaka – boasting a 3-0 record in grand slam semis – faced a 30-40 deficit and potential 0-3 hole before digging deep to hold for the first time.

It proved to be a turning point for Osaka, who went on a roll by reeling off five successive games and six of the next seven to take complete control.

The tables turned on Williams, who saw her unforced-error count balloon out to 16 while only hitting four winners in the opening set.

Williams – the oldest woman to reach the semis in Melbourne in the Open Era – carried a flawless Australian Open semi-final record into the contest, having won all eight of her previous final-four showdowns.

But Williams cut a frustrated figure at the start of the second set as she yelled at herself "make a shot" amid her demise – Osaka breaking in the first game before consolidating.

However Osaka, who has gone on to win the title each time after advancing past the round of 16 at a slam – 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open, lost her way when serving at 4-3 as three double faults saw her broken by Williams.

Williams, beaten by Osaka in an infamous US Open final three years ago, regifted the compliment the very next game, Osaka hitting three stunning winners to break to love before sealing her place in the women's decider.

 

Data slam: Osaka stays hot
She has now won 20 consecutive matches since losing while on Fed Cup duty for Japan last February. A 21st successive victory would yield a fourth slam triumph.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Williams – 12/24
Osaka – 20/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Williams – 3/1
Osaka – 6/8

BREAK POINTS WON
Williams – 2/7
Osaka – 4/4

Rafael Nadal insists he was not struggling with injury as he crashed out of the Australian Open but acknowledged a lack of match practice could have contributed to his quarter-final collapse against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 20-time grand slam champion was dealing with a back issue at the start of the tournament, although he managed to advance to the last eight without dropping a set.

That impressive run appeared set to continue as Nadal won the opening two sets against fifth seed Tsitsipas, only for the match to turn on its head after a tie-break in the third

Tsitsipas emerged a 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-5 winner after just over four hours, becoming only the second player – after Fabio Fognini – to triumph from two sets down against Nadal at a major.

Post-match questions put to Nadal predictably centred on the potential impact of his back woe, but he insisted there was no physical pain on Wednesday.

However, reflecting on "just another story in my tennis career", the Spaniard repeatedly referred to the difficulty of preparing for a tournament amid such problems.

"I think I was in great condition before here," he said. "Then I've been a bit unfortunate for what happened for 20 days, and then I fight back to play, I think, decent tennis.

"Today wasn't enough. It was close, just that's tennis. That's all. That's the sport. One player wins; the other loses.

"Today I lost, so the only thing that I can do is try to be better next time, and today congratulate him."

Claiming the key was instead two costly mini-breaks in the breaker, Nadal added: "I am not complaining much.

"I think physically, it has been a very humid day out there. Physically I was not fantastic but not bad, you know? I was able to fight until the end, and that's it.

"The whole issue is I missed an easy smash at the beginning of the third, an easy forehand with 2-1 in the tie-break, and then another smash in that tie-break.

"That tie-break I made a couple of mistakes that I can't make to win the match. He played well then later. Well done."

Nadal was chasing a record-breaking 21st major championship, yet only one of those triumphs has come in Melbourne – back in 2009.

The 34-year-old has lost four finals, as well as regularly dealing with injury concerns at the first slam of the season.

But asked if he felt "cursed", he responded firmly: "No. No, no, no. That's sport. Sometimes things go well; other times things goes worse.

"Unfortunately for me, in this tournament, I had more injuries than in the others. Then matches that you lose like today against one of the best players of the world is something that happens.

"No, no, no. Not at all feeling unlucky for me and not at all complaining about my luck here in Australia.

"Everyone has what we deserve. Tennis isn't a sport that is fair. I have what I deserved in my career, and over here in Australia I had chances, but I was not able to convert it. That's all. I didn't deserve more."

Use of the word "unlucky" brought a similar response, as Nadal insisted he was not looking for excuses.

"We can find excuses or reasons or maybe this quarantine that we need to be more time in the room than usual, yes, maybe," he said. "But I am not the guy that is going to find excuses on that or going to complain about what happened, no.

"Just accept. I never considered myself an unlucky person at all. It doesn't matter the injuries that I had. I think I am very lucky person.

"The only thing that I can do is just keep going. I put myself in a position, even with the challenges that I faced, that I was in quarter-finals with two sets up, close to being in the semi-finals.

"So, it has been a chance lost, yes, but life continues. I hope to keep having chances. Well, I'm going to keep fighting for it."

Stefanos Tsitsipas struggled to explain how he pulled off a remarkable turnaround against Rafael Nadal to reach the last four of the Australian Open.

The fifth seed had only once before beaten Nadal and was facing a seventh career defeat to the 20-time grand slam champion as he fell two sets behind on Rod Laver Arena.

Instead, Tsitsipas rallied after a third-set tie-break to triumph 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-5 and advance to a semi-final against Daniil Medvedev.

The Greek joined Fabio Fognini, at the 2015 US Open, as the only players to overturn a two-set deficit to beat Nadal at a major.

Victory had seemed particularly remote as Tsitsipas struggled to make any inroads on Nadal's serve. He won only 10 receiving points across the first two sets - two of those coming courtesy of double faults - and had to wait until the final game before the breaker in the third to add an 11th.

Then, to the victor's bemusement, the match turned, ending Nadal's run of 35 consecutive set wins at grand slams.

"I have no words to describe what has just happened on the court," Tsitsipas said. "My tennis speaks for itself.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to fight at such a high level and leave it out on the court. I started very nervously.

"I don't know what happened after the third set. I flew like a bird and everything worked for me."

Tsitsipas, who made just four unforced errors in the pivotal third set, added: "I focused on staying calm and holding my nerves today. I have failed to do so in some of my matches.

"I stayed calm in the tight moments and I kept everything to myself. I am really happy with the attitude that I showed on the court."

Now Tsitsipas must take on another player he has only previously defeated once, although that win came in his most recent meeting with Medvedev in 2019.

"He plays very well and has been very consistent, with lots of consecutive wins," Tsitsipas said. "I need to recover and have a good ice bath.

"I am looking forward to the match and each match I play here is an opportunity to play my best tennis. It will be amazing to see the crowds again."

Rafael Nadal suffered a remarkable collapse to exit the Australian Open at the quarter-final stage despite earlier leading Stefanos Tsitsipas by two sets.

Only once in Nadal's grand slam career had he previously let a two-set lead slip and such a slump appeared entirely improbable as he dominated Tsitsipas on Rod Laver Arena.

But the 20-time major champion, chasing a record-breaking 21st title, struggled to recover his momentum after dropping a set for the first time in the tournament when the third went to a tie-break.

The courageous Tsitsipas grew in confidence and landed a momentous second career win over Nadal to reach a third slam semi after a four-hour 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-5 epic.

Jennifer Brady believes a two-week hard quarantine upon arriving in Australia helped her make a run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

As one of the 72 Australian Open entrants that had potentially been exposed to COVID-19 on chartered flights to Melbourne, Brady was forced to stay in a hotel room for a fortnight ahead of the first grand slam of the year.

However, the 25-year-old booked her place in the final four on Wednesday by coming from behind to defeat Jessica Pegula 4-6 6-2 6-1 in an hour and 40 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

While some players voiced their displeasure with the conditions they were faced with in self-isolation, Brady felt the period served her well.

"I was pretty much going non-stop since June of last year. I was playing World TeamTennis, then played tournaments in the US, then went over to Europe and was training in Europe till December," said Brady.

"I didn't have any weeks off. Mentally I was feeling a little bit fried, to be honest. I think I used that two weeks to kind of reset mentally and also physically, just give myself, my mind, my body a little bit of a rest.

"I would say I didn't really have high expectations on myself to do well. I came out of the quarantine, and then we were lucky enough to have a separate tournament for us who were in the hard lockdown. I was lucky to get a couple matches in there before starting here in the Australian Open."

The 22nd seed will take on Karolina Muchova in the last four, the Czech having stunned world number one Ash Barty earlier in the day. In the other half of the draw, Serena Williams will take on Naomi Osaka.

Brady hopes to get an opportunity to challenge herself against 39-year-old veteran Williams, who is chasing a record-equalling 24th major singles title.

"I think just being in the same draw as Serena is obviously... when she retires, if she retires, it's going to be something I'll be extremely grateful for. I hope I get to play her before she retires," said Brady.

"Yeah, I think she's the G.O.A.T. She's the greatest of all time and definitely will be the greatest of all time."

Brady made her first grand slam semi-final appearance at last year's US Open, when Williams and Osaka were also in the final four.

She suffered a three-set loss to Osaka on that occasion, but she is pleased to be performing on a par with the Japanese and Williams.

"I think it says a lot. They're obviously great, great tennis players, champions of the sport. To be categorised in the same group as them, I'll take that as an honour," said Brady.

"I think it's a huge achievement for me to make the semi-finals here. I look to make the finals, so we'll see."

Only Muchova stands between Brady and a first major final and fans will be able to attend after lockdown was lifted in Victoria, with a crowd of 7,477 – approximately 50 per cent capacity – allowed for each session.

Brady said of her next opponent: "She's crafty. She looks to move forward, has an all-court game. She's really athletic.

"I hope it will be a good, competitive match. Yeah, I'm looking forward to it."

Daniil Medvedev secured his first Australian Open semi-final berth after continuing his domination of fellow Russian Andrey Rublev in straight sets.

Medvedev starred in the Melbourne heat as countryman Rublev faded, winning 7-5 6-3 6-2 on Wednesday to reach his third grand slam semi-final, equalling Alex Metreveli for third place on the Open Era list for most major semis by a Russian man.

World number four Medvedev – the fifth Russian man to reach the Australian Open semis in the Open Era, after Metreveli (1972), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1999-2000), Marat Safin (2002, 2004-05) and Aslan Karatsev (2021) – will face either 20-time slam champion Rafael Nadal or Stefanos Tsitsipas for a spot in the decider.

Medvedev and Rublev were meeting for the fourth time on the ATP Tour – their second in a grand slam quarter-final, with the former winning all previous meetings in straight sets. 

Runner-up at the 2019 US Open, Medvedev had a glimpse on Rublev's serve before breaking in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead, only to hand the break straight back to his countryman.

The tense battle continued behind closed doors on Rod Laver Arena as a tie-break loomed large, until Medvedev closed out the 46-minute set on Rublev's serve.

It was a similar theme in the second set, with little separating the two Russian hopefuls under the warm Melbourne sun.

Rublev, who won five ATP Tour titles last year – more than any other player, while earning a joint-best 41 wins in 2020 alongside world number one Novak Djokovic, continued to take the match to Medvedev.

Three break-point chances came Rublev's way in the seventh game, but he was unable to convert and Medvedev made him pay as the world number four broke the very next game before earning a two-sets-to-love lead.

Rublev – eyeing his first slam semi – deteriorated in the warm conditions, often hunched over between points while trying to keep cool in the shade, as Medvedev cruised.

 

Data Slam: Medvedev extends streak
There is no stopping Medvedev at the moment after he extended his winning streak to 19 matches, already a career-best run – dating back to the Vienna Open last October.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Medvedev – 30/33
Rublev – 20/39

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Medvedev – 14/4
Rublev – 8/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Medvedev – 5/11
Rublev – 1/5

Sofia Kenin revealed she had her appendix removed after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis following her shock Australian Open exit.

Australian Open champion in 2020, Kenin was dethroned in the opening week of the grand slam at Melbourne Park, where she was stunned by Kaia Kanepi in the second round last Thursday.

American star Kenin – who suffered her earliest major exit since Wimbledon in 2019 – revealed via social media on Wednesday that she had an operation in Melbourne.

"Hey guys! I want to share with you what happened to me a few days ago," Kenin said via Twitter.

"I went to the tournament physician office on Monday, February 15th with acute abdominal pain. I was evaluated by the tournament physician and referred to the hospital for further evaluation.

"Acute appendicitis was diagnosed following the completion of my CT scan. I had to have surgery and had my appendix removed on Monday, February 15, at Epworth Hospital Richmond. 

"I want to thank everyone at Epworth Hospital Richmond for taking good care of me!"

World number one Ash Barty refused to criticise Karolina Muchova's reasoning for a medical timeout after she was surprisingly beaten in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Barty's bid to become the first Australian woman to win the Melbourne grand slam since 1978 came to a shock end on Wednesday, upstaged by 25th seed Muchova 1-6 6-3 6-2.

Winner of the 2019 French Open, Barty raced through the opening set in 24 minutes and led 2-1 in the second before Muchova requested an off-court medical timeout on Rod Laver Arena.

It was a turning point, Muchova returning reinvigorated as the unheralded Czech reached her maiden major semi-final in remarkable fashion, with the 24-year-old revealing during her on-court interview, "I was a bit lost [gestures at head] on the court and my head was spinning so I took a break. It helped me.

"It was more they just checked my pressure because I was a bit lost. I was spinning. So they cooled me down a bit with ice and it helped me."

Asked about Muchova's actions, Barty told reporters: "It's within the rules. She's within her rights to take that time. If she wasn't within the rules, the physios and the doctors would have said so. That's the laws of our game, is that we have those medical timeouts for cases that are needed. Obviously she needed that today. Completely within the rules for her to take that.

"From my point of view, I've played a lot of matches where there have been medical timeouts. I've taken medical timeouts myself before, so that shouldn't be a massive turning point in the match. I was disappointed that I let that become a turning point. I'm experienced enough now to be able to deal with that. It's a disappointment today without a doubt. But we learn and we move on."

Barty added: "I would have liked to have just been a little bit sharper the next game. Started well with the first point, just made a couple loose errors in that game. I think for the rest of the set, that was the story, it was just over and over-made. Probably pressed a little bit trying to be overly aggressive.

"Had some break points, I think it was that three-all, that was probably a bit of a critical game in the momentum there for the second set. Just disappointed with the fact that I wasn't able to bring the match back on my terms after she took that break."

"I didn't hear what she said when she called for the trainer," Barty continued. "That's not my decision. When you call for the trainer, you obviously tell the umpire what the reason is. And then the doctor and physios come out and assess it. That's within the rules. For me, that's not really my decision and not my concern what she took the medical for.

"Obviously there are rules when we go off the court for whatever areas you're getting treated because that's quite normal. But, yeah, that's not really my decision to make on whether or what her medical condition was or what the timeout was for."

Brady, who tallied 31 unforced errors in the final two sets having only managed six in the first, said: "It's heartbreaking, of course. But will it deter me, will it ruin the fact we've had a really successful start to our season? Absolutely not.

"The sun will come up tomorrow. We go about our work again. You're either winning or you're learning. I think today is a massive learning curve for me, for Tyz [coach Craig Tyzzer], my team as well. We take the positives out of it, without doubt and don't let this particular match, this particular hour of tennis deter us from what we're trying to do."

Karolina Muchova completed a stunning comeback to upset world number one Ash Barty 1-6 6-3 6-2 in the Australian Open quarter-finals. 

Leading by a set and 2-0 in the second, Barty looked on track to reach back-to-back semi-finals at Melbourne Park, where she was bidding to become the first Australian woman to advance to the final since 1980 and first to lift the trophy since 1978.

But Czech 25th seed Muchova spoiled the 'Barty party' on Rod Laver Arena as her star opponent – unable to stop the rot – sensationally crashed out on Wednesday.

Muchova, whose only previous win against a top-five player came against Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon two years ago, will contest her maiden major semi-final as either Jennifer Brady or Jessica Pegula await.

Played behind closed doors on the final day of a five-day state-wide lockdown in Victoria, Barty initially showed no mercy in warm and sunny conditions midweek.

Barty, who had lost the second-fewest games (20) en route to the last eight, raced out to a 5-0 lead in just 16 minutes – Muchova managing to avoid a first-set bagel in the only positive in an otherwise forgettable start.

Winner of the 2019 French Open, Barty only dropped three points on first serve, while she won 90 her cent of her second serves – finishing a lopsided first set with six winners and just as many unforced errors.

Progression to the semis appeared to be a foregone conclusion as Barty led and Muchova required a medical timeout away from the court at the end of the third game of the second set.

But Muchova emerged a new player, with Barty fading dramatically after everything she touched had turned to gold in the opening set.

Barty's unforced error count ballooned out to 19 as Muchova enjoyed great success on second serve, winning 12 of 15 points, while the former – who did not face a break point in the first set – only managed four of 15 and served three double faults.

Muchova continued her red-hot form in the deciding set - breaking in the opening game before saving a pair of break points to consolidate and she did not look back as she caused a boilover, which was sealed with an ace.

 

Data Slam: ​Barty loses her way
Unstoppable in a 24-minute first set, Barty crashed back down to earth thereafter. She missed routine shots consistently, with 31 unforced errors in the remaining two sets contributing to her demise.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 21/37
Muchova – 17/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 3/3
Muchova – 2/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 3/13
Muchova – 4/11

Australian Open fans are set to return to Melbourne Park from Thursday after the Victorian government confirmed the lifting of restrictions following a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the number of supporters set to attend remains unknown, fans will be back in their seats for the beginning of the Australian Open semi-finals, with record-chasing Serena Williams set to face three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in Melbourne.

Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic will play the tournament’s surprise package, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev - who is the first player to reach a semi-final on their grand slam debut.

Djokovic was on court when the lockdown came into effect last Friday, with the five-day "circuit-breaker" designed to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain.

Part of the third round, the fourth round and quarter-finals of singles action were played behind closed doors after a series of outbreaks in Victoria.

The state has recorded 12 more active cases since the lockdown was implemented but, with none discovered in the past 24 hours, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced restrictions will be eased.

"I'm very, very pleased to announce that the restrictions will come off, almost all of them, at midnight tonight," Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.

"From 11:59pm [Wednesday local time], the restrictions will be dropped [but] masks will be required indoors and outdoors when you can't socially distance."

The stage-four restrictions meant residents could not leave their homes for any other reason than work, shopping for groceries, exercise or the giving or receiving of medial care.

This year's delayed Australian Open has had crowds capped at 30,000 per day with original COVID-19 restrictions, but new limits are yet to be determined for the rest of the tournament.

"There will be meetings this afternoon [to determine] what is a safe number," Andrews said.

"They already were reduced, they may have to be reduced further, but that matter will be resolved in the next few hours."

Novak Djokovic has claimed the "majority" of tennis players are opposed to playing on tour this season if quarantining before tournaments becomes the norm.

The world number one made his stunning claim after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals with a four-set win over Alexander Zverev, moving a step closer to a ninth title at the event.

Djokovic is battling an abdominal injury and he pointed to problems that have affected the likes of Rafael Nadal, Matteo Berrettini and Grigor Dimitrov during their time in Australia.

He stressed that being locked down in hotel rooms as they were in Australia - in some cases being strictly confined for 14 days - was "definitely not good" for the physical health of players.

He is proposing, casually for now, that tennis considers a bubble system whereby one venue stages a string of tournaments, meaning players would not have to travel from country to country and each time need to abide by different COVID-19 rules.

"I don't want to sit here and complain about what we have been through, but we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical well-being of players. Of course also mental, emotional, but physically this is not normal," Djokovic said.

"We are hoping that it's temporary. But talking to a lot of players, the majority of the players just don't want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments.

"So this is something that should be discussed, as of now."

Djokovic is a former president of the ATP player council, resigning before last year's US Open to lead the breakaway Professional Tennis Players Association.

The 17-time major winner may be a divisive figure to some, but he is determined to be involved in the big decisions.

He said he had held conversations with members of the player council, who in turn had spoken to ATP management.

"I'm waiting for some answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their well-being," the 33-year-old Serbian said.

He said players had turned out for the Australian Open because of the large prize money on offer, tolerating the fortnight in quarantine because of the subsequent rewards, but said prize money cuts at other tournaments would make many think twice.

There have been "a lot of complaints" from lower-ranked players, Djokovic said.

"We have to find a way, whether it's something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don't mind to discuss about that kind of idea," Djokovic said, referring to last season's NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, Florida, where the basketball season was able to be completed.

"Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. Three, four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks' rest, then back again. Something like that."

Djokovic offered no suggestion players would consider skipping the grand slams that remain in 2021 - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

But he said: "We also have to be realistic that what we are experiencing here in Australia is far better than what most of Europe is going through in terms of restrictions and rules and regulations and quarantines, et cetera.

"And most of the season will continue on in Europe, actually."

He says players can cope with being away from family, if rules are implemented to mean player entourages must be small, but hotel room quarantines are another matter.

"I have been hearing that there are some countries that don't want to accept people coming in from some specific countries because of the virus strains, different virus strains, so forth, and transmission, and God knows what," Djokovic said.

"I don't know how we're gonna handle with that, honestly. But we have to address this very quickly, I mean, because the season already started."

Djokovic, meanwhile, moves on to a clash with qualifier Aslan Karatsev, the 27-year-old Russian revelation of the tournament.

It took an explosion of anger from Djokovic, when trailing 3-1 in the third set against Zverev, to give him the spur to see off the German.

He smashed a racket so hard it left debris on the court that a ball girl was summoned to sweep up.

Djokovic said: "Of course I'm not proud of these kind of moments. To me it happens and then today it actually helped, even though I don't intentionally do it in order for it to help me. I just kind of let it go. Poor racket."

Serena Williams admitted it felt like stepping back in time as her movement and power came together to overwhelm Simona Halep at the Australian Open.

It had been just over 18 months since Halep destroyed Williams in the Wimbledon final, and with the American great approaching her 40th birthday, prospects of a 24th grand slam title have appeared to fade.

Into the conversation on Tuesday strolled a revitalised Williams, a woman who has been proving a point and defying expectation for coming up to a quarter of a century.

Williams is simply not having it that her days as a winner might be over, which is why she and coach Patrick Mouratoglou are always seeking marginal gains.

Dogged by an Achilles injury since the US Open last September, Williams feels over that, and a 6-3 6-3 quarter-final win over Halep attested to that being the case.

More than that, though, Williams noticed the years fall away as she dashed around the court, thumping groundstrokes with abundant power and often plenty of precision.

Speaking of the movement returning, Williams said: "It was something that Patrick and I did discuss. I just wasn't able to incorporate it as much as I would have liked to.

"But once I was able to get on the court, I was able to incorporate it as much as I could. Movement has always been one of my strengths, and so it's actually more natural for me to move than for me not. So it was just kind of, like, 'Oh, that's how I used to move', so it's pretty good.

"I'm happy that I'm doing that again and that I put it back into my game. I think I was more focused on other things and not focused on something that is actually a strength of mine, has always been a strength of mine, and I had to refocus on that."

She faces Naomi Osaka next for a place in the final. It reads like a match-up of an all-time great against a player who could over time join her in that pantheon.

Osaka is pursuing a fourth grand slam title, while Williams wants the 24th as much as she craved the first, given it would move her alongside Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.

The veteran American's most recent slam title came while pregnant in Australia four years ago, with Williams dealt four final defeats since, including a notable one to Osaka at the 2018 US Open.

If Osaka was watching Williams on Tuesday, as she surely was, the Japanese player could have only been impressed.

When asked about how she was matching and often out-matching Halep even in the longest rallies, Williams paused to consider when she was last able to boss such exchanges.

"It's definitely been a minute. It's been a long minute," she said with a smile. "I think 19... 1926, the summer of 1926 I think was the last time I felt that.

"But I'm good at rallying and I have to embrace the things I'm good at. I'm good at playing power, I'm good at hitting a hundred balls.

"That's one thing that's unique about me that I just need to kind of accept and embrace and just be good at both."

Williams and Osaka may have a crowd on Thursday for the semi-final, or they may not. Melbourne remains in lockdown but spectators could be back on Rod Laver Arena for the clash of two of the sport's biggest personalities.

Addressing that prospect, Williams indicated she would have mixed emotions.

"I love having the people there, obviously. But at the same time, it's kind of nice to not have, like ... more pressure when there is people in the stands," Williams said.

"So I think either way it's really a win-win situation. That's kind of how I look at it."

Fast-footed on the court, quick to sidestep off it, Williams is convinced she can push Osaka hard, perhaps heartened by a narrow win when they met in an exhibition match in Adelaide last month.

"I've got to keep going. Obviously I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game. I'm going to have to," Williams said.

Halep said Williams "was stronger in the important moments", and she too noticed her opponent showing something near vintage form.

"Yeah, she's moving better and she hits strong," Halep added. "I feel like she's in a good shape now. She has a really good game. Always did..."

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