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Naomi Osaka wins thrilling Australian Open final against Petra Kvitova
Osaka becomes the first player since Jennifer Capriati to win the next Grand Slam after her maiden major
Last Updated: 26/01/19 10:50pm
Naomi Osaka claimed back-to-back Grand Slam titles as she added the Australian Open to her US Open crown with a dramatic three-set victory against Petra Kvitova.
The 21-year-old from Japan recovered from a dramatic second-set collapse to defeat Kvitova 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena to ascend to the throne as the new queen of tennis.
Osaka's win stopped the run of eight different consecutive Grand Slam title winners as the 21-year-old became the youngest woman since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010 to be ranked No 1 in the world.
After receiving the trophy from former Australian Open champion Li Na, Osaka said: "Public speaking isn't really my strong side so I just hope I can get through this.
"Huge congrats to you Petra. I've always wanted to play you. I wouldn't have wanted this to be our first match but I'm hugely honoured to have played you.
"Thank you everyone and I'm really honoured to have played in this final."
In their first career meeting, two of the game's biggest hitters faced off for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup with neither player giving any leeway as the serve dominated a high-quality contest on Australia Day in Melbourne.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova has been in imperious form at Melbourne Park, but her profligacy at not taking advantage of five break-point opportunities was so nearly punished as the Czech saved two set-points while serving to stay in the set and held with a backhand crosscourt winner to force the tie-break.
The fourth-seeded Osaka dominated it, picking off Kvitova with some ruthless forehand winners. She surged into a 5-1 lead and did not look back, going on to take it 7-2 in 51 minutes.
Kvitova was back into a major final for the first time since her title run at Wimbledon in 2014. It's also the first in what she calls her "second career" following her comeback from injuries to her left hand since the horrific knife attack in 2016.
Given Osaka had won her previous 59 matches when taking the first set, the size of Kvitova's task was clear.
But the 28-year-old reacted in gutsy fashion by breaking for a 2-0 lead but Osaka struck back by winning four games on the bounce for a real momentum swinger.
While her victory over Serena Williams in New York was all about controversy and meltdowns, this time the drama was all on the scoreboard.
Kvitova stayed in the contest as she swung away with freedom and in the most dramatic of circumstances she saved three championship points at 5-3.
For the first time the occasion got to Osaka as three loose shots allowed Kvitova to level at 5-5. Osaka had one chance to break again for 6-5 but again Kvitova stood tall and the eighth seed made it four games in a row to win the set 7-5, with Osaka double-faulting on set point.
Osaka was struggling to hold back tears as she left the court for a timely bathroom break which enabled her to regain her composure.
She reappeared for the deciding set reinvigorated - surging into a 3-1 lead before saving a break-point to retain her two-game cushion at 4-2.
A determined Kvitova was not going down without a fight after recovering from 0-40 at 2-4 with some huge serving, but Osaka kept her cool.
And when she stepped up to serve for the match for the second time, she buried her demons, taking her fifth championship point after two hours and 27 minutes to extend her winning streak in Grand Slam matches to 14 matches, with her run at Melbourne Park coming in the wake of her first major title at last year's US Open.
With her voice wavering, Kvitova said: "I can't really believe I played the final of a Grand Slam again. It was a great final, well done Naomi. You really played well, congrats for being number one as well.
"To my team, thank you for everything. but mostly thank you for sticking with me even though we didn't know if I would be able to hold the racket again. For supporting me and staying positive for me, which I really needed."
Osaka v Kvitova: Match Stats
|62%||1st serve win percentage||64%|
|45%||2nd serve win percentage||47%|
|3/14||Break points won||3/10|
|0/3||Net points won||10/12|
|116||Total points won||112|
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