All the key facts and talking points as the semifinals will be set at the first Grand Slam of the season.
Alex Macpherson
January 22, 2019

LEARNING

WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina leads her head-to-head against No.4 seed Naomi Osaka 3-2, though the latter won their only previous encounter in Melbourne. The Ukrainian won their first meeting 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of Osaka in 2014 - the future US Open champion's second ever WTA main draw as a wildcard ranked No.265. Osaka then won both of their 2016 matches - 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open and 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the Tokyo semifinals. Svitolina repaid the Japanese player with a two wins out of two matches in 2018 - 6-2, 6-4 in the Dubai quarterfinals and 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of Miami.

No.16 seed Serena Williams is 2-1 against No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova. This is the first time the pair have played outside the USA: their rivalry is bookended by two Williams wins (7-5, 6-2 in the second round of Stanford in 2014, and 6-4, 6-3 in last year's US Open quarterfinals) with one victory for Pliskova in between, 6-2, 7-6(5) in the 2016 US Open semifinals. That win makes the Czech, who had defeated Venus Williams in the fourth round, the most recent player to beat both Williams sisters in the same tournament.

There will be a new World No.1 following the Australian Open, ending Simona Halep's 48-week run at the summit. Petra Kvitova officially overtook the Romanian's points total by making the semifinals yesterday, and Naomi Osaka would overtake both Kvitova and Halep with a win today. Elina Svitolina would need to make the final to have a shot at emerging as No.1, while Karolina Pliskova now needs to win the title to overtake Kvitova.

Of the 11 players whose maiden Grand Slam title came at the US Open in the Open Era, Naomi Osaka has become the fifth to back up her New York run with a quarterfinal at the Australian Open. Two of those fell in the last eight in Melbourne - Gabriela Sabatini in 1991 and Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006 - but Osaka is bidding to join Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters as the third to make the semifinals. No maiden US Open champion in the Open Era has reached the final at the subsequent Australian Open.

Serena Williams is playing the 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career, and aiming to make the 37th semifinal. The 23-time major champion, who is the only player to have made the last eight or better at the past three Slams, has lost at this stage 13 times previously - but only twice this decade, at Roland Garros 2010 (to Samantha Stosur) and the 2013 Australian Open (to Sloane Stephens).

Naomi Osaka - Tokyo 2016 - Getty
Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating Elina Svitolina in the 2016 Tokyo semifinals to make her first Premier final (Getty)

Naomi Osaka is the first Japanese quarterfinalist at the Australian Open since Ai Sugiyama in 2000, and is aiming to become the first semifinalist from her country here since Kimiko Date in 1994. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina is bidding to become the first Ukrainian major semifinalist in history, and Karolina Pliskova is seeking to join Petra Kvitova to make it two Czechs in the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time since Kvitova and Lucie Safarova at Wimbledon 2014.

Karolina Pliskova is aiming to make her first Grand Slam semifinal since Roland Garros 2017, and third overall. The Czech has a 2-4 record in major quarterfinals, having lost her past three - as well as falling at this stage in the past two Australian Opens, to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in 2017 and Simona Halep in 2018.

World No.7 Elina Svitolina is the highest-ranked player yet to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, followed by Daria Kasatkina at No.10. The Ukrainian is also the only player with a career high ranking in the Top 3 since the inception of computer rankings and the only WTA Finals champion in history who does not have a last-four showing at a Slam. Svitolina lost two of her previous three quarterfinals in straight sets (to Ana Ivanovic at Roland Garros 2015 and Elise Mertens at the Australian Open last year), and the third from a set and 5-1 up - failing to take one match point along the way - to Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 at Roland Garros 2017.

In 2015, Karolina Pliskova captured the WTA Tour ace leaderboard pole position from Serena Williams, the American having topped the list for the previous three years. Pliskova would also head the ace leaderboard for three years, with Julia Goerges wresting the crown from her in 2018; however, in 2015 Williams still led Pliskova in aces per match (9.4 versus 6.9), and it was only in 2016 that the Czech would also lead in this category with 8.7 to the American's 7.9.

Karolina Pliskova is the last former junior champion remaining in the draw, having won the girls' title 6-1, 7-6(5) over Laura Robson in 2010. Thus far this millennium, only three former junior champions have made the Melbourne semifinals: Jelena Jankovic (2008), Victoria Azarenka (champion in 2012 and 2013) and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (2017). Seven-time champion Serena Williams is the only previous winner of the senior title left.

TRENDING

READING

Two-time Slam champion Li Na is to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July - and the Chinese legend expanded on why she's long tipped Naomi Osaka for success, writes Bruce Matthews for AP, praising her calm and maturity.

17-year-old Amanda Anisimova's fourth-round loss to Petra Kvitova highlighted that the WTA Tour does not need teenage supernovae, argues Louisa Thomas in the New Yorker; instead, "there is already a bright firmament" of stars, and "parity is revealing itself to be a source of the sport’s strength".

A new WTA Tour initiative at the Australian Open to bring coaches into the media spotlight has found favor with ESPN's Simon Cambers, who writes: "Although it's not for everyone, hearing from so many coaches has given us more insight into players than ever before."

The junior tournament is well under way, and No.7 seed Lulu Sun - who has reached the third round so far - talked to Michael Beattie for itftennis.com about her multicultural upbringing (representing Switzerland, Sun was born in New Zealand to a Chinese mother and Croatian father) and plans for a transition to the pro ranks this year.

ORDER OF PLAY

Click here for the order of play for the second Wednesday at Flinders Park.

WATCHING