Osaka shines to claim second Australian Open crown
NAOMI Osaka gave Jennifer Brady a lesson in Grand Slam tennis as she cruised to a 6-4 6-3 win to secure her second Australian Open title and cement her standing as the new queen of the women’s game.
Osaka’s victory over the 22nd-seeded American at a floodlit Rod Laver Arena gave the Japanese third seed her fourth major crown at the age of 23.
Fans hoping for a repeat of the pair’s engrossing U.S. Open semi-final last year were left disappointed as Brady froze in the spotlight of her first Grand Slam final.
U.S. Open champion Osaka played some way short of her best tennis and joined Brady in contributing to a dour, error-strewn first set.
But she settled to clinch six straight games, roaring to a 4-0 lead in the second before serving out the match to love.
A big serve sealed it, causing Brady to fire a forehand return long, and Osaka held her racket over her head and beamed in an understated celebration.
Osaka, who won the 2019 tournament, offered Brady warm congratulations and thanked the fans at the trophy ceremony.
“When we played in the semis of the U.S. Open, a couple of months ago, and I told everyone that ‘Listen you’re going to be a problem’. And I was right,” said Osaka, who will be world number two when the rankings are updated.
“It feels really incredible for me. I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy it really means a lot.”
On a cool and breezy night at Rod Laver Arena, Osaka warmed up with two aces as she served out the opening game to love but the blazing start fizzled out in a stream of errors from both players.
Grappling with early nerves, Brady dropped serve after two double-faults but quickly broke back when Osaka double-faulted to gift a break point.
Brady breathed some life into the contest at 4-4, luring Osaka in with a drop-shot, then scrambling forward to retrieve and lob her for break point.
Osaka cancelled it nervelessly with an imperious forehand winner launched from the baseline.
Brady kept offering Osaka gifts from her racket.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-4, she double-faulted then slapped a wild forehand over the baseline to cough up set point.
Brady fired down a huge serve that Osaka could only return short, then stepped in to pound what should have been a simple forehand winner straight into the net.
The crowd groaned and Brady went to her chair ashen-faced.
Osaka stepped up the pressure, breaking Brady again after setting up the chance with a sumptuous crosscourt backhand winner.
She charged on to a 4-0 lead before Brady belatedly conjured some resistance to break Osaka against the flow of play.
The American clawed back to 5-3 but bowed out as she started, smashing wild returns to allow Osaka to serve out the match without trouble.
Although it was a tough first Grand Slam final for Brady, she broke new ground in a remarkable run after being one of the 72 players unable to train during their two-week hard quarantine in the lead-up.
“First I would like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title,” said the 25-year-old.
“She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she’s doing for the game is amazing and getting the sport out there and I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she’s doing.”