Infosys analysis: Osaka's efficiency too much for Brady in AO 2021 final

  • Matt Trollope

Naomi Osaka’s ability to win the territorial battle in the Australian Open 2021 women’s singles final against Jennifer Brady may help explain why the Japanese was able to add to her major trophy collection.

Third seed Osaka, playing in her fourth Grand Slam final, beat major final debutant Brady 6-4 6-3

And when analysing insights powered by Infosys, we see that Osaka covered less distance, positioned herself more aggressively and robbed her embattled opponent of time throughout the match. 

Forehand dominance drops

Prior to facing Osaka, Brady had been using her powerful serve – which averaged exactly the same speed in the final (178.4km/h) as Osaka’s booming delivery – to set up her heavy forehand on the third shot of the rally.

But although she hit a forehand nearly 53 per cent of the time on her third shot in her first six matches, this percentage plummeted to 35 against Osaka. 

This could be explained, in part, by Osaka’s return position.

READ MORE: Business as usual in finals for flawless Osaka

The AO 2019 champion opted to return Brady’s serve on the baseline on both first and second serve, robbing the American of time to more regularly run around her backhand and deploy forehands on the third shot. 

You could see Osaka’s ability to rush Brady on return reflected in “time pressure” metrics; Brady had less time to react (633 milliseconds, on average, for the ball to cross the net) to Osaka’s first-serve returns that what Osaka did (667 milliseconds) on Brady’s equivalent shot.  

Osaka wrests control

A similar dynamic emerged when Brady was receiving; she opted to play an average of 0.8 metres behind the baseline to return first serves, and dropped back even further (2.3 metres) to return Osaka’s second serves.

From this position, Brady was able to take bigger cuts at the ball – generating an average second-serve return speed of 128.8km/h, almost 22km/h faster than Osaka – but she ceded too much court to her opponent, who was able to wrest control of rallies.

This pattern on the serve and return for both players took on extra weight given almost two-thirds of the points (81 of 123) in the match landed in the 0-4 shot range.

Put simply, these points do not feature many shots beyond the serve and return. And Osaka won a clear majority of them. 

Movement matters

Flowing on from this court positioning was a difference in the work rate of the two players. 

Osaka was not forced to cover as much distance (780m versus 900m) or expend as much energy (805 kilojoules versus 907 kilojoules) throughout the final.

She also undertook less total sprints (10, compared with 16) and high-intensity changes (23, versus 31) that what Brady did.

In all, it was a ruthlessly efficient performance from Osaka, who needed just 77 minutes to capture her fourth Grand Slam singles title.