Awesome Osaka races to second AO crown
Awesome Osaka races to second AO crown
After nearly exiting less than a week ago, Naomi Osaka has stormed to a second Australian Open title and fourth Grand Slam success by downing Jennifer Brady.
Osaka brandished her devastating power game — but mixed in defence at a key moment — to defeat Brady 6-4 6-3 in Saturday night’s final.
Osaka broke into a huge smile when the contest ended in one hour 17 minutes, prior to the players exchanging a hug at the net.
“I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy it means a lot,” Osaka said to the fans during the trophy presentation, cradling the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
“Thank you so much for coming. I feel like playing a Grand Slam is a super privilege right now and it’s something I won’t take for granted. Thank you for this opportunity.”
The world No.3 cemented her status as the top hard-court player in the world. Osaka extended her winning streak to 21 — all on hard courts — a spell that included claiming the US Open last September.
Osaka and Brady met in New York, producing a tremendous, hard-hitting semifinal affair in the American’s big breakthrough.
And Osaka got the better of it again at Rod Laver Arena to foil Brady’s bid to become the second straight US women’s winner at Melbourne Park who contested her maiden Grand Slam final — after Sofia Kenin.
“I’d like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title,” Brady told the crowd.
“She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she is doing for the game is amazing in getting the sport out there, and I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she is doing.
“Hopefully I’m on this stage next time with this girl over here,” she added, referring to the winners’ trophy.
The end of the opening set really decided the outcome. Osaka hung on at 4-4 then, aided by her countering, broke as Brady relinquished a 40-15 advantage.
The Japanese star subsequently surged while Brady, the world No.24, understandably sagged.
Both players struggled with their first-serve percentage, though Osaka shaded matters on first-serve and second-serve points tallied while hitting one more winner and seven fewer unforced errors.
Osaka has often said how much she loves the big occasion and her record in Grand Slam finals suggests as much, now a perfect 4-0.
This final was a fairly routine affair, unlike her three others.
Osaka overcame the disappointment of not converting three match points in a second set to beat Petra Kvitova in 2019 in Melbourne.
It all could have been so different this fortnight, since Osaka stood on the verge of departing in the fourth round.
She saved two match points against last year’s finalist, Garbine Muguruza, before soaring to another level. Wins over the tricky Su-Wei Hsieh and Serena Williams followed.
Osaka joined Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Li Na in triumphing at the Australian Open in the last decade after saving match points.
A veteran by now in these major finals, Osaka didn’t seem to have any nerves at the outset.
She struck a potent serve out wide that she thought was an ace, only to discover it was a fault. No sweat. Osaka thumped two aces on the way to a love hold.
Brady raced to 40-0 in her opening service game but what happened next foretold of the struggle that was to come. The 25-year-old — who made the final after enduring hard quarantine — eventually held at deuce.
But there was no escape in her next service game, broken to love via two double faults.
Brady needed to respond quickly or the set would get away from her. And she did.
Osaka let slip a game point, then delivered a double fault of her own. And when Brady held to love, the score was 3-3.
Suddenly Osaka was on the back foot at 15-30. Rediscovering her attacking game, she dug out a pivotal hold for 4-3.
Brady’s first serve percentage hovered around 40, before she found first serves for 4-4 and the contest bubbled up nicely.
Both players were now engineering stunning shots, to the crowd’s pleasure. Brady scrambled to send a lob over Osaka for a break point but her opponent responded with a massive forehand to escape and eventually hold.
A crushing blow ensued for Brady.
On course to level again, leading 40-15, Osaka’s massive second-serve return perhaps unsettled the American. Brady then attempted a bold second serve at 40-30 but missed it wide.
Osaka, instead of that power, resorted to defence to manufacture a set point with a crazy defensive lob that prompted a miss.
A rattled Brady conceded the set when her short forehand found the net, with Osaka stranded.
In a flash, Osaka sped to 4-0 in the second.
Despite a brief rally, Osaka closed out proceedings with ease, starting the final game with a gutsy forehand down the line.
The last female player to win her first four Grand Slam finals? Monica Seles in the 1990s.
Osaka likely won’t stop at four.