Naomi Osaka will climb to second place in the world rankings after winning the Australian Open
The Japanese Naomi Osaka cemented her place as the pre-eminent star of the women’s game by beating American Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open final and winning her fourth Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old Osaka is unbeaten in the grand final after a 6: 4: 6: 3 win in Melbourne.
Osaka prevailed against the first set when Brady paid for some blatant mistakes in their final game in their first Grand Slam final.
From that point on, the third seed took control and took a 4-0 lead in the second set before securing a deserved victory.
Osaka has now won two Australian Open titles after also triumphing at Melbourne Park in 2019. Her other Grand Slam successes came at the 2018 and 2020 US Open.
She has not suffered defeat since February 2020 after beating Brady was her 21st straight win.
Osaka’s face lit up with a big grin and raised her bat over her head as she took the title on her first match point after Brady had long returned.
Around 7,500 fans got to see the final at Rod Laver Arena, and Osaka earned recognition after their US Open win came behind closed doors.
“It feels amazing to have fans. I played the last Grand Slam without fans. That energy means a lot,” said Osaka as she clutched the Daphne Akhurst Trophy.
“I think playing a Grand Slam is a privilege.”
Osaka is the first player to win her first four Grand Slam finals since Monica Seles in 1991.
Osaka proves again why she is a “great master”.
Osaka, spoken softly, has recently become the biggest star of the sport and this has been illustrated again with another Grand Slam victory.
On the pitch, her clean hitting and clear thinking has proven too much for her opponents to handle.
Off the field, she has grown to become one of the most marketable female athletes in the world and her voice has made her a prominent social activist.
“She’s a great champion,” said former UK number one Laura Robson, analyst on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“For the past six months she has found a purpose outside of the court, but anything she does there never affects her. That is the key.”
Osaka was the clear favorite in the finals at Melbourne Park, although a relatively calm walk to the finals also included moments when she showed her fight and spirit.
In the fourth round against Garbine Muguruza, runner-up in 2020, Osaka had to drop two match points before he could win, and in the semi-finals they had to survive some difficult moments against the 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams.
Although her level wasn’t always the highest against Brady, she still had enough quality in the key moments.
Osaka fought for first serves, making 24 easy mistakes but won four of their five breakpoints and saved two of Brady’s four chances
That was most evident at 5-4 in the first set, when her relentless pressure forced Brady into the mistakes that turned out to be crucial.
And more brilliance allowed Osaka to get off to a quick start in the second set from which Brady couldn’t recover.
A cute cross-court backhand winner set more breakpoints to take a 2-0 lead, and took the first opportunity when Brady was embroiled in clumsy footwork from another deep return.
From that point on, Osaka’s confidence continued to grow and she quickly made a double breakup.
While Brady was scratching one back, Osaka never looked like giving up on another and was serving mastery for love.
The next question for Osaka will be whether they can carry over that hard court dominance to the clay and grass surfaces.
Success has not yet arrived at the French Open and Wimbledon, but her next ambition – once she celebrates that success – will seek to change that over the next few months and years to come.
Brady falls short, but hopes for “many more” big finals
Although it wasn’t the result Brady wanted, the 25-year-old American can build on many positive aspects after her first Grand Slam final.
It was noteworthy that the 22nd Seed was even used in Melbourne’s second week as he was the only single player to be forced into a “hard” quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
The former college player, stuck in her room for 14 days without walking, had to hit balls against a mattress against the wall, do inventive leg exercises and borrow an exercise bike and treadmill from Tennis Australia.
She also admitted she’d stopped watching Netflix so that she would “do nothing but lie in bed”.
Solid serving is the bedrock of her game and that has helped her work her way through a friendly tie that didn’t see her in the top 20 until Osaka.
Brady lost to Osaka when they met in a high-profile US Open final last September and suffered the same fate as she struggled to assert her service game.
The match swung away from Brady in that crucial 10th game of the opening set.
After getting back fluid after a bad start, a double fault at 40-30 gave Osaka hope and Brady was caught by a return hitting the baseline to give Osaka a set point out of nowhere.
Brady planted a slight forehand in the net and ultimately this sloppy game cost her the match.
Moans from the crowd as Brady grimaced and shook his head.
“It shouldn’t be, but hopefully there is a lot more,” said Brady, who will move up to 15th in the world outside the top 50 a year ago.