Naomi Osaka has won her second Australian Open title and remains unbeaten in major finals after beating American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 in Melbourne. The world number three is now the holder of both hard-court majors, with this success coming after her win at the US Open last year.
The 23-year-old came through a thrilling first set, breaking her opponent early before Brady broke her straight back to tie the set 3-3. That was the best we saw of the American’s famous forehand however as Osaka showed her class to heap the pressure onto Brady’s serve. Unfortunately she buckled under the pressure at deuce, hitting a shot into the net to give the US Open champion the first set.
From there, Osaka never looked in danger. She raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set with some phenomenal ground strokes and although Brady fought back, those six consecutive games for the Japanese superstar across the first and second set ultimately handed her the title. Brady has been a true credit to the tournament, playing some phenomenal tennis along the way beating the likes of Karolina Muchova and Donna Vekic, but this proved to be a step too far and she looked heartbroken immediately after the loss.
You just can’t keep Osaka down on the hard court though. A vocal Aussie crowd celebrated her fourth Grand Slam title with her, and her second Australian Open in three years. In the last twelve months she and her team have taken her game to the next level, and now we must wait to see if she can convert this hard court domination into success on the clay at Roland Garros and the green grass of Wimbledon.
As the Rod Laver Arena cheered her on, on court the new champion praised her team and gave credit to her opponent, who reached her first major final at this tournament.
"Firstly, I want to congratulate Jennifer. We played in the semi-finals of the US Open and I told everyone that would listen that you're going to be a problem, and I was right. To see your growth over the past few months is really cool.
"I'd like to thank my team. I've been with them too long, a month and some change. They're like my family. They're the ones with me through my training, through my matches, through my nervous talks before my matches, and I'm really appreciative towards them. This one's for you.”
She also gave a touching tribute to those in attendance, after winning the US Open in front of an empty stadium, it felt brilliant to watch a live sporting event with a crowd. Never again will we underestimate the importance of those sitting in the stands.
"Lastly but not least, I want to thank you guys [the fans]. Thank you for coming and watching. It feels really incredible. I didn't play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy, it really means a lot. Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms towards us. For sure I feel like playing a Grand Slam right now is a super privilege and it's something I won't take for granted."
Brady, a true credit throughout the tournament, remained as classy as ever as she congratulated her opponent on her victory.
“First I would like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title. She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she’s doing for the game is amazing and getting the sport out there. I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she’s doing. I would also like to congratulate her team. Obviously you guys are doing something special. Pushing Naomi every day. She’s only getting better, so congratulations.”
So Osaka reigns supreme on the hard stuff yet again. She is the dominant force in the women’s game but will now turn her attention to the French Open, where she has never been past the third round. With two out of the four majors in her possession and playing as well as she is, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that she could complete a clean sweep this year. The unbelievable thing is, she is still only 23, meaning we could be in for a decade of dominance from this remarkable sportswoman.