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.
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