Naomi Osaka Beats Petra Kvitova 7-6 5-7 6-4 In Epic Australian Open Final
Naomi Osaka has beaten Petra Kvitova 7-6 5-7 6-4 in a tense, dramatic, high quality Australian Open final in Melbourne.
That means the 21-year-old Japanese-born US resident -- who competes under the Japanese flag -- has now won the last two Grand Slam events and on Monday, will be the new world number one.
More importantly, she has finally gotten to enjoy a Grand Slam triumph after the bittersweet aftermath of the the famous Serena Williams umpire spat in the US Open final last year.
At the US Open in September 2018, the antics of Williams visibly deflated Osaka. This time it was pure joy, after a see-sawing match which she looked certain to win, nearly didn't, but eventually did.
"She didn't get this type of moment [in New York] and she deserves it," Jim Courier said, and he was right.
"Hello," Osaka began her winner's speech, in one of the most charming Australian Open podium moments in memory. "Public speaking isn’t really my strong side."
Perhaps it's not as strong as her forehand, but she said what she needed to say. She said it well too, paying tribute to her valiant opponent and thanking the most important people -- the crowd, the ball kids, and her team.
In a sign of things to come, the first set tonight was a real arm wrestle.
Osaka, who was the world number four going into this match, and Kvitova, the world number 6, both played brilliant tennis. Eventually, Osaka's power got her through in a tie-break.
Osaka would have been the overwhelming favourite at that point. In an incredible streak, she has not lost a match anywhere in the world for more than two years after winning the first set.
But Kvitova showed she didn't care much for statistics, breaking her opponent's serve in the second game of the second set to go up 2-0.
Osaka broke back, then broke again to go up 3-2. As Kvitova served to stay in the match at at 3-5 down, she found herself at 0-40. Osaka had three match points. Surely this thing was over.
But the Czech somehow clawed her way back.
Osaka still had the chance to serve for the set and the match. But she played several nervous shots and was broken.
Kvitova, a dual Wimbledon champ, was in her first Grand Slam final since a terrible attack in 2016, when a knife-wielding home invader severely injured her left hand (she is a left-handed player).
It's been a long road back to a Grand Slam final and there's no way she was giving up without a fight. The 28-year-old broke her younger opponent and took the second set 7-5.
Anyone's match again.
Then something unusual happened. You felt like Osaka was maybe going to throw this thing away. But she reset. New set, new Osaka.
The third set had no less drama.
Osaka broke Kvitova early, but there were twists and turns galore before she finally got there. And the trophy was hers.
After the match, Petra Kvitova made an emotional speech which had the whole crowd in raucous applause.
But this was Osaka's night -- and the next decade might just be Osaka's tennis decade.
For all tennis fans, this was a wonderful evening. And it capped off a great day for women's sport after an incredibly memorable and hard-fought WBBL final.