Naomi Osaka has claimed her second Australian Open title and her fourth grand slam championship.
Osaka is the first woman, since Monica Sales in 1991, to remain unbeaten in her first four major finals after she clinically defeated world No.24 Jennifer Brady 3-6 4-6.Embed from Getty Images
Osaka struck first, breaking her opponent to love, to go 1-3 up in the first set. But Brady hit back, using her clever forehand to strike several well-timed winners past Osaka’s serve.
But Osaka challenged again late on in the opening passage of play.
With Brady needing to hold on service to stay in the set, Osaka ramped up the pressure, forcing her to serve a double fault, hit a loose backhand and strike a forehand into the net, to concede a second break and gift the first set to Naomi Osaka.Embed from Getty Images
“I feel like once a person loses the first set doubts start to creep in. So that’s when you really should put your foot on the gas,” Osaka said after the match.
“So my mind just began thinking that she either felt really nervous or really pressured, and I should capitalise on that by trying to win as many games as I could, like, pace-wise.”
And that’s exactly what she did, reeling off two break points to go 0-4 up in the second set and held off the American’s advances to close out the remainder of the set to become the 2021 Australian Open women’s singles champion.
It seems the ever-humble Osaka will undoubtedly go on to achieve great things in tennis, with many pundits, including Matts Wilander, stating Osaka will go on to reach “double figures” in her grand slam quest.Embed from Getty Images
But Osaka, who has not lost a match since February 2020, said she wasn’t looking too far ahead, plainly going about her business one match at a time.
“I’m taking it in sections. Right now, I’m trying to go for five. After five I would think about maybe dividing the 10, so maybe seven or eight.”
“I like to take things not big picture. I know that the people that I’m playing against are the best players in the world and, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.“
Lauded for her social activism work away from the court, Osaka also stated she hoped to become a role model for generations of players to come.
“I feel like the biggest thing that I want to achieve is playing long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favourite player,” said Osaka.
“I think that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. I just think that that’s how the sport moves forward.“
Brady also took her time to applaud the champion stating, “what she is doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls are watching and inspired by what she is doing.”Embed from Getty Images
Despite missing out on the title, Jennifer Brady has had a remarkable two weeks in Melbourne.
Having reached her first-ever grand slam final, the 22nd seed defied the odds to go all the way in the tournament after being one of the 72 players locked in a strict 14-day hard quarantine when she arrived in Australia.
“It wasn’t meant to be, but hopefully, there’s many more,” said Brady.
“I think I belong at this level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable. It’s within reach.“Embed from Getty Images
After a brilliant end to her 2020 season, reaching four semifinals on the WTA Tour while also claiming her first championship in Lexington, Brady’s game has gone from strength to strength and will now shoot up to 15th in the world rankings.
“You know, playing out there, obviously, I was nervous, didn’t go my way, but at the same time coming off the court, I was, like, Okay, that feels a little bit normal.”
“It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like. If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t think it’s possible, or it would feel like it’s, like, going to Mars. So I would say just being more comfortable at this level.“
Image: @naomiosaka via Twitter