MELBOURNE — Naomi Osaka solidified her name as the present — and future — of women’s tennis when she backed up her debut Grand Slam victory at the 2018 US Open by capturing the Australian Open title on Saturday night.
The fourth-seeded Osaka outlasted Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 in a first career meeting between the two, and did more than just win her second Grand Slam trophy.
The final was also a battle for the No. 1 ranking and now the 21-year-old Osaka, whose mother is Japanese, father is Haitian, and has dual Japanese-American citizenship, is the top player in the world.
At the US Open, Osaka became the first Japanese player, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam trophy. Now Osaka, who at this time last year was ranked No. 72, adds another historical note to her resume by becoming the first Japanese player to rank No. 1.
“Sorry, public speaking isn’t my strong side,” Osaka said to the crowd. “Huge congrats to you Petra, you’re amazing, and I’m really honored to play you in a Grand Slam. … I read notes before this but still I forgot what I am supposed to say. So thank you.”
Osaka wasn’t able to take advantage of three match points she held on Kvitova’s serve in the ninth game of the second set and was forced to go the distance before being able to hoist the trophy. When a disappointed Osaka walked off court after losing the second set, she did so with a towel over her head.
Finally able to declare herself an Australian Open champion on a second match point on her serve in the 10th game of the third set, Osaka just crouched while leaning on her racket at the back of the court.
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She then beamed a wide smile over at her team in her player’s box, while Kvitova, sitting courtside waiting for the award ceremony, was teary eyed and disappointed.
Despite losing, Kvitova’s story of surviving a knife attack to her left playing hand in December 2016 to featuring in a Grand Slam final is awe inspiring.
“It’s crazy, I cannot believe I just played a final of a Grand Slam again,” said Kvitova, clearly fighting back tears and cheered wildly by fans. “It was a great final. Well done, Naomi…and congrats for being No. 1 as well.
“It’s been a while to be in the final for me,” she added. “To my team, mostly thank you for sticking with me when we didn’t know if I’d be able to hold a racket again.”
Osaka is the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the next Grand Slam after winning her first Grand Slam title. Capriati achieved that feat at the Australian and French Opens.
Osaka’s won an astonishing 60 consecutive matches when she’s won the first set.
The eighth-seeded Kvitova was hoping to capture her third Grand Slam title. She won her first two at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014.