Cape Town - Serena Williams defeated Naomi Osaka in their Rogers Cup quarter-final on Friday as the pair met for the first time since their infamous US Open final last year.
Osaka went into the match with a perfect record against her former idol, but was unable to preserve that record as the 37-year-old veteran came out on top 6-3, 6-4.
Afterwards, Osaka admitted that Williams was the better player on the night.
“I honestly don’t really think there was ups and downs,” Osaka said.
“I think in the first set we were kind of just serving it out, and then I was the one that — I don’t even think I dipped.
“I just think that I gave her too many second serve looks, and she just did what she does.
“But, yeah, I’m not really mad at this. I think I played pretty well. And she just played amazing, which that’s what she does.”
“I know that sounds kind of weird, but if there’s anyone in the world that I would want to lose to – of course I would never want to lose – but I don’t mind losing to her because I learned a lot.
“This is someone that I kind of modeled my game after when I was little. So this is, like, such a big learning experience for me.”
That was an assessment that Williams shared, admitting she had studied the Japanese star to try to figure out a way to get the best of her.
“It was just a better match for me today,” Serena acknowledged in her on-court interview.
“We haven’t played since New York, which was a really good match for her.
“I just wanted to come out and try to win a set this time – she’s beaten me twice. I just wanted to do the best I could today.”
“I knew her game a little bit more, so that’s a little easier, and, you know, I’m just overall a little bit better.
“I watch her a lot. I knew what I needed to do to hopefully try to get a win today, and it helped a little bit.”
One comfort for Osaka is that she will return to the top of the world rankings next week.
Williams will face qualifier Marie Bouzkova in the semi-final after Simona Halep retired with a leg injury during their match.
It looks more precautionary than anything, though, and it’s unlikely to endanger the Wimbledon champion’s US Open hopes.
Youngsters Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin will contest the other semi-final.