Naomi Osaka would prefer putting Australian hero Ash Barty in front of a pro-Barty local crowd rather than having no crowd at all. Tournament officials are still planning a possible return of some spectators from Thursday morning

Osaka, who is in their fourth Grand Slam semi-final after defeating Hsieh Su-wei, faces Barty, but the pair could face each other in Sunday’s final

Osaka, 23, admits that in this case she would rather be fans playing against her than not be allowed into the stadium

The Japanese Naomi Osaka reached the semi-finals on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Hsieh Su-wei. Photo credit: Getty Images

Tennis Australia remains “hopeful” that fans will be able to return to Melbourne Park on Thursday, but officials are awaiting advice from the Andrews government

The Prime Minister couldn’t say Tuesday if people would be able to participate in tennis if the state were released from lockdown on Wednesday night

But tournament director Craig Tiley told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, “We continue to hope that the last four days of the Australian Open will see the crowds again and the team has worked through the embargo on how to safely finish the race can event at a climax

“We fully understand, however, that this is a community public health decision and, as such, cannot be taken lightly

“Last week, players cherished the opportunity to play in front of an audience for the first time in nearly a year, and many spoke about how emotional it was to get back in touch with fans, although everyone quickly switched to a broadcast-only version of the AO have resorted to keeping the community safe, we all hope there is an opportunity in the coming days to bring the fans back

“At this stage, our planning for the next few days takes into account both scenarios – with crowds on site and the continuation of a broadcast-only event”

Osaka, the three-time Grand Slam champion, knows what it is like to play big games behind closed doors after winning the US Open last year with no spectators

About Barty, Osaka said, “People want her to do well here. When you imagine her reaching the finals and there are no spectators, is that really sad, you know what I mean?

“Even for myself I have played the final without an audience and it’s definitely unforgettable, but I’m sure if she gets to the final and there is no audience, it will be unforgettable, but kind of sad”

“I’m sure she would want a lot and for me I would want a lot too, even if they don’t cheer me on, because that’s life“It’s just more fun”

Osaka praised Barty’s physical condition during the tournament and admitted that she saw the local hero as a great threat

“I would say she looks really fit. Unlike me, I eat during quarantine, but she looks really good and her results look really clean, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she made the final me don’t think anyone would be ”

Osaka showed a threatening combination of strength and placement to push Su-wei aside, winning 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour

“I know my next opponent is Serena or Halep. I always watch Serena’s games anyway but everyone has told me about my draw here so I have no choice but to know who my next opponent is is, “said Osaka after the win on the pitch

Osaka survived a great shock in their fourth-round game against last year’s finalist Garbine Muguruza and saved two match points to come from behind and win in three sets

However, she showed no signs of fatigue in another eerily empty Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday and only lost two points on her first serve against Su-wei

In addition to winning the Australian Open two years ago – when she defeated Petra Kvitova – Osaka is also two-time US Open champion

Sam McClure is a sports reporter for The Age and winner of “Best News Reporter” at the AFL Media Association Awards

Osaka Naomi

World news – AU – Barty watch out: Osaka storms into the open semi-finals