Osaka won the match 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the Australian Open final for the second time. She has now won 20 consecutive matches, last losing in February last year.
“I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka said of Williams on court after the win. “Just to be on the court playing against her for me is a dream.”
Williams, 39, embraced Osaka after the match. She then waved to the crowd as she departed, putting a hand over her heart.
Williams was asked in a post-match news conference if the gesture meant farewell.
“I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone, so,” she said.
Visibly emotional, Williams left the news conference after the next question.
Osaka is the heavy favorite in the final on Saturday. She will face No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady of the United States, who defeated No. 25 seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the second semifinal. In their last meeting, the US Open semifinals five months ago, Osaka defeated Brady 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3.
At age 25, this will be Brady’s first major final.