Justine Henin gives her verdict on the Australian Open final and Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams hug

Former world No 1 Justine Henin offered up her views ahead of Saturday’s Australian Open final between Naomi Osaka and Jenifer Brady for Eurosport and it was clear that she is expecting the favourite to emerge victorious:

Henin on the semi-final winners:

It was a tough match for Jennifer (against Karolina Muchova), there were a lot of ups and downs, both players were nervous going in to the semi-final especially Brady. She started the match really well but then became really emotional, it wasn’t really clear what she was trying to do on the court. Then in the third set she became more calm.

I was bit concerned for Jennifer at the end because even if she had played a semi-final of a Grand Slam, it is quite new. It is amazing how much in one year this player has improved, she went out of her comfort zone to work hard in the past few months and at the end I think it is just a gift for her, a bonus to be in a Grand Slam final. She deserves it, she really worked hard for it and I was surprised how she managed to stay really solid in the last game – she was under pressure.

Naomi Osaka was making a lot of mistakes at the start of her semi-final against Serena (Williams), it was a bit to do with both players. But the big difference with Naomi now is experience, her capacity – even if he she is not playing well – to stay into it. The thing I’m really impressed with Naomi is that she doesn’t overplay it. When she got into the match, she was in control of the rally, she was powerful, she was serving better. To me, women’s tennis has a new boss, she has this capacity, she took another dimension.

How highly do you rate Osaka?

I think she is charismatic, she doesn’t have a lot weakness, she does have her ups and downs. She can improve on the percentage of first serves. She sometimes does a lot of mistakes but I was also impressed when she has to play well, when she has to serve well,  she plays like a champion. I’m very confident she will win more Grand Slams.

Clearly Osaka will be the favourite, it wouldn’t be honest to say the opposite. You always have to be careful – Brady was really nervous today because it was a huge opportunity, it’s going to be completely different I think in the final. Naomi Osaka is completely ready, physically, mentally she showed that she is really strong. Naomi, for sure, will be the big favourite for this match.

Serena Williams is still playing in Grand Slam events and she is older than you. What do you make of her longevity?

I could never see myself playing in a Grand Slam semi-final now, no chance! I really admire Serena a lot to keep this motivation. Of course she wants to break the record, of course she has changed, she is a mum, probably she is more emotional than she was in the past. She’s not that young any more but she is still at this level which is amazing. She was in the semi-finals of the US Open, she was more ready physically here and had more expectations and this is why she will be disappointed, because she feels herself much better but the other players keep getting better.

When you see these young players how fit they can be, how physically ready they can be – it’s of course going to be harder and harder for Serena but we never close the door with Serena. When she wants something, it’s always going to be tough for her opponent, even if its going to be harder and harder.

The impact she had on the other players 10 years ago, we were scared to play Serena, she was impressive, she was winning a lot. I don’t say her motivation has gone down, but her life has changed, she has maturity and she has other goals in her life. Physically she was at a better level, but she’s 39 – it’s amazing what she can do physically and mentally but the game has also changed, it is getting faster and faster and now these players know they can beat Serena. She’s going to be more pushed and this is what’s hardest.

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