Sport Tennis Australian Open 2019: Naomi Osaka defeats Petra Kvitova in a final to remember

Australian Open 2019: Naomi Osaka defeats Petra Kvitova in a final to remember

Naomi Osaka has nobody to look up to after taking both the Open crown and the world's top ranking. Photo: EPA/Ritchie Tongo
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For Naomi Osaka, this was justice.

The 21-year-old winner of Saturday evening’s thrilling Australian Open final was reduced to tears in the ugly aftermath of last year’s US Open decider.

At Flushing Meadows last September, the Japanese star wept as she was booed by a typically brash American crowd unhappy with the chair umpire and the fact Osaka had beaten local hope Serena Williams.

There were only tears of joy at Melbourne Park on Saturday evening, though, as Osaka overcame multiple setbacks to defeat Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 in a final that will live long in memory.

The modest victor, who also made history by becoming the first Japanese woman to achieve the number one ranking, was somewhat lost for words when accepting the trophy, revealing that she had made some mental notes “but I still forgot” what she meant to say.

“I had dreams that I would win this tournament, you know?” Osaka told reporters just after her win.

“Every time I have a dream, somehow I accomplish it, I still feel like it’s a very strange moment.

“Like, I feel like I’m living right now, but it’s not necessarily real, if that makes sense.”

Osaka could have wrapped it up in the second set, having three championship points at 3-5, but Kvitova, on serve, showed outstanding resolve to stay in the contest.

Kvitova eventually held and won the last four games of the second set in just 11 minutes to force a decider.

Osaka’s frustration was evident and, at the conclusion of the second set,  she walked off court with a towel over her head as a collapse of Jana Novotna proportions seemed on the cards.

But the soon-to-be-crowned World No.1 showed impressive maturity, quickly regaining her composure and then edging a tense final set to become the first player since Williams to win back-to-back grand slam titles.

For Kvitova, the final was her first since she was attacked, injured and stabbed in the hand during a terrifying home invasion in 2016.

Kvitova’s tennis future was in doubt for some time, and victory in Melbourne would have put an exclamation mark on the two-time Wimbledon champion’s comeback to the sport.

It was not to be, though, with Osaka holding her nerve in an Open classic.

“It’s painful, for sure,” Kvitova told reporters. “I don’t know how long [it] will take me to get over it.

“I really fight back in the second set. I’m proud of myself in that case.

“I’ve been through many, many things – not really great ones. As I said on the court, I didn’t know if I [was] going to hold the racquet again.

“I’m holding it, so that’s good. Still [a] few things which I can improve and we’ll do it … it’s not the end.”

Osaka started with a double fault but both players, particularly Kvitova, quickly found their rhythm on serve.

A tie-break was the natural conclusion and it was one Osaka dominated, a sizzling backhand helping her into a big lead.

A pair of Kvitova errors handed the opener to Osaka, but the former produced a much-needed early break in the second.

But her advantage lasted just a few minutes, Osaka winning the next four games to take an ominous looking 4-2 lead that soon became 5-3.

Serving to stay in the match, Kvitova dropped to 0-40 but then showed incredible fortitude to not only stay in the contest by winning the game, but by taking the next four.

Kvitova’s fierce forehands were finding their mark again and Osaka was feeling the pressure, with a series of uncharacteristic unforced errors letting her opponent back in.

It was hard to see a way out for Osaka but she regrouped in the third set and finally snapped Kvitova’s run of five games in a row by holding serve for 1-1 and then produced a crucial break.

Osaka again had three break points at 0-40 on the Kvitova serve, this time with the Japanese player leading 4-2 in the final set. And once again Kvitova came up trumps, holding to deny Osaka a two-break advantage.

That moment had the Rod Laver Arena crowd and the millions watching on television asking themselves the same questions as both players took a breather: Was history going to repeat? Would Osaka wilt?

Those questions were answered quickly and emphatically as Osaka held impressively.

Kvitova made her serve it out, and Osaka did blow a fourth championship point with an errant forehand.

It was fifth time lucky, though, an unreturnable serve sealing a popular grand slam success.

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