Australian Open 2019 women’s final: Naomi Osaka hangs on vs. Petra Kvitova for second straight Grand Slam
Kvitova was neck-and-neck with Osaka all match, but Osaka did enough to notch the win
Naomi Osaka is 21 years old, but she’s already establishing herself as one of tennis’ premier players.
The Japanese star beat eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 in the Australian Open women’s final on Saturday, notching her second successive Grand Slam title after winning the US Open in September. It caps a brilliant run for the No. 4 seed Osaka, who had to beat the likes of Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova just to get to this point.
The triumph will result in Osaka getting her first career No. 1 WTA ranking to kick off her third year doing the full Grand Slam circuit. She’s the first player from Japan to achieve the highest ranking — man or woman — and she’ll be the youngest player to get No. 1 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010 (20 years, 92 days) at 21 years, 104 days old.
Against Kvitova, Osaka finished with nine aces. Both women had three break points over the course of the 2-hour, 27-minute match, and Osaka’s first serve was a high point for her. She won 76 percent of her first serves, and only 50 percent of her second serves. Kvitova was in the same ballpark, winning 71 percent of her first serves and 51 percent of her second serves.
Osaka took the hard-fought first set in a tiebreaker (7-2). Kvitova fought back to force a decisive third set (Osaka’s fourth in five matches).
Although Osaka seemed gutted by losing the second set — in which she dropped three championship points and left the court in tears — she refocused. Osaka continued to do what she did all tournament, completing the match with the grit she has finished all her matches in this tournament.
Kvitova and Osaka were both crowd favorites, with Kvitova capping an incredible comeback story by making her first Grand Slam final appearance since 2014, when she won at Wimbledon. In that four-year gap, Kvitova has battled mononucleosis and a home invasion that led to a knife attack that injured tendons and nerves in her left hand. After the match, Kvitova was all class.
Osaka, naturally, was thrilled by her new status as the WTA’s best in the world.
“I’m beyond excited to become the new WTA World No.1,” said Osaka, via the WTA. “I’ve always dreamt of being in this position and I am honored to be part of the elite group of players who have reached the No.1 ranking.”
Osaka was her normal, mild-mannered self in her championship speech.
Osaka is the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win earn first two Grand Slams titles in back-to-back fashion, and it seems like she has a few more in store. Not only is she playing great tennis, but she’s doing it against top players.
Osaka had nothing but nice things to say about Kvitova after the match.
“You’ve been through so much,” Osaka said to Kvitova while receiving her trophy, via The Washington Post. “I’m really honored to have played you in the final of a Grand Slam.”
All in all, it was a feel-good final. Osaka is a young, up-and-coming star who proved she’s here to say, whereas Kvitova overcame the odds to make it back. Both players were playing for a No. 1 ranking, and although Osaka came out on top, Kvitova showed that at 28 she has plenty left in the tank. It will be exciting to see if they do it again at Roland Garros in the French Open.
MELBOURNE, Australia — So close to victory, Naomi Osaka suddenly was letting the Australian Open final slip away. Three championship points? Gone. A sizable lead? Soon all gone, too.
She was playing poorly. She yelled at herself. Slammed a ball. Tugged at her visor’s pink brim. Trudged to the locker room between sets with a towel draped over her head.
And then, after returning to the court, Osaka turned it all around just as quickly as she had dropped 23 of 27 points. Refocusing and reasserting herself, Osaka edged Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday night to win the Australian Open for a second consecutive Grand Slam title.
“I felt like I didn’t want to have any regrets,” Osaka said. “I think if I didn’t regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried or something.”
“Amazing achievement,” two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova said. “Definitely she is a great one. We’ll see what the future will bring.”
Osaka added the Australian Open trophy to the one she collected in a U.S. Open final last September that forever will be remembered for the way runner-up Serena Williams was docked a game after arguing with the chair umpire.
Unlike that day, there was no jeering from the confused crowd. No controversy. No chaos. No sharing the spotlight.
Clearly marking herself as tennis’ bright new star, Osaka is the first woman to win two major championships in a row since Williams picked up four straight in 2014-15.
Almost didn’t happen.
Osaka held three match points in the second set at 5-3, love-40 as Kvitova served. But Osaka couldn’t close it out. Instead, she completely lost her way.
At that point, Kvitova would say later, she figured it was going to keep going her way.
“In the end,” she said, “it wasn’t.”
After Kvitova double-faulted to offer up a break point at 1-all, Osaka converted it with a cross-court backhand winner. There was still more work to be done, of course, and some additional drama when it began raining at the changeover right before Osaka tried to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third set.
This time, Osaka would not falter. She would not let this lead disappear.
“I knew that Petra couldn’t keep it up for that long if Naomi could just manage those emotions,” said Osaka’s coach, Sascha Bajin, “and she did that beautifully.”
At 21, Osaka is the youngest No. 1 in nearly a decade; Caroline Wozniacki was 20 when she first ascended to that spot in 2010.
And to think, a year ago, Osaka was ranked 72nd.
What a climb. What a quick climb.
Kvitova was playing in her first Grand Slam final since winning Wimbledon in 2014 — and the first since she was stabbed in the hand by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic a little more than two years ago.
Kvitova needed surgery, missed the first 4½ months of the 2017 season, including the Australian Open, and couldn’t be sure she’d ever get back to the top of tennis.
On a somewhat cloudy, rather comfortable evening, with only a slight breeze and the temperature around 75 degrees (25 Celsius), both women hit the ball as hard as can be. Exchanges were mostly at the baseline and filled with flat, powerful groundstrokes that barely cleared the net and made retrieving and replying as much about reflexes as anything.
Here’s one measure of how even it was: Each finished with 33 winners.
Points were swift and blunt; of 86 in the first set, only four lasted nine strokes or more. There was plenty of strong serving, clean hitting and good movement.
It was Osaka who was the first to get ahead, tearing through the tiebreaker by grabbing five points in a row — four via winners — to go up 5-1. When Kvitova sailed a backhand wide moments later, ceding a set for the first time all tournament, Osaka pumped her fist and screamed, “Come on!”
When Osaka broke to lead 3-2 in the second set, and then got to 5-3, the outcome seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Turned out, that wasn’t the case. Not at all.
All that really matters, of course, is that Osaka righted herself in time to win.
“It didn’t really take that long,” she said. “I didn’t have a choice.”
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