Serena Williams insists she didn't choke in Australian Open loss

"I mean I kind of expected (the comeback) a little..." "It looked like at the end, the pressure, which is - very rare, I didn't think I would be saying this - but the pressure of the moment got to her a bit". I don't think I actually did anything wrong. "I tend to do better if I focus on one goal".

Taking control after the court's retractable roof was closed as the temperature soared toward 38degC yesterday, the No7-seeded Kvitova surged to a 7-6 (2) 6-0 semifinal victory over 35th-ranked American Danielle Collins.

"I feel like when I win the first set, it's sort of smooth after, because I learn a lot in the first set anyways", Osaka said.

Kvitova will face Osaka in Saturday's final in Melbourne looking to secure her first Grand Slam tournament win since the stabbing incident - and her first Grand Slam title away from the grass courts of Wimbledon. A swift challenge from 21-year-old saw her serve shave a millimetre of the "T" line as Rod Laver Arena erupted in cheers.

Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' coach: "For me, the main key is the emotions".

She was sluggish with her footwork and her serve was considerably lacking in power.

The score was 4-4 in the first set when the roof was closed and Collins seemed to be the one affected by the change in playing conditions, after having earlier been on top of Kvitova.

But as she did the previous day, Pliskova found a way to keep herself in the contest for long enough. She was broken in three consecutive service games as Pliskova grew from strength to strength and eventually won the match 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

She was digging in and Osaka was starting to tighten up.

The opening four games of the second set all went against serve as Pliskova threw everything at Osaka trying to find a way back into the match.

Osaka managed a crucial hold as the third game of the third set turned into a seven-minute arm-wrestle, fending off three break points.

Osaka served up a ridiculous 15 aces against Pliskova, but her fear on second serves was warranted. She's saved 70 per cent of the break points she's faced while gutting out several tough three-setters.

She won three ITF singles titles a year ago and broke into the top 250 in October. Kvitova leads the head-to-head against Pliskova 3-1, with the latter winning their last encounter at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. First, she was called for a foot fault, and then after successfully serving, she rolled her left ankle.

While it was a gallant effort from Pliskova, the statistics indicate Osaka was the better player.

"I think not very many people believe that I can do that again, to stand on the court and play tennis and kind of play on this level", Kvitova said. I think Naomi is on fire.

"Every single match I play, whether I'm coming back from a baby or a surgery or it doesn't matter, these young ladies bring a game that I've never seen before". I had some chances, of course, but they were not in my hands at all.

  • Julie Sanders