Naomi Osaka is the 2021 Australian Open champion after beating Jennifer Brady in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, in 77 minutes in the women's final in Melbourne. It's Osaka's second Australian Open win -- after taking home the title in 2019 -- and fourth career Grand Slam championship after winning the US Open in 2018 and 2020.
Osaka had to beat some previous major winners on her way to the title, going through Garbine Muguruza and Serena Williams in the quarterfinals and semifinals before collecting her fourth major in the win against Brady. It's the second time Osaka has completed a US Open-Australian Open double. Williams, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters are the only other women's players to have done that this century.
Brady, meanwhile, came up short in her first Grand Slam final but came away with a good showing. The first set was tied 4-4 before Osaka pulled away, and Brady did get back in the match in a second set she trailed 4-0. While it was her first Grand Slam final, she also lost to Osaka in the 2020 US Open semifinal, and is an emerging star on hard courts. An upbeat Brady thanked her whole team after coming in second.
On the court after the match, she talked about the future "It was special to play in front of fans in my first grand slam final, so hopefully next year I'm standing here with this [trophy] over here, but tonight is wasn't meant to be, but hopefully there's many more."
Brady also talked about her comfort level on the game's biggest stages in her post-match media availability. "I think I belong at the level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable...it's within reach," Brady said. "Playing out there obviously I was nervous...it didn't go my way but at the same time coming off court I was like 'ok that feels a little bit normal'."
Osaka congratulated Brady after the match, and said she knew this was coming after their US Open semifinal. "I told everyone that would listen you were going to be a problem and I was right!"
The 23-year-old also thanked the fans in Melbourne on the court after the match "I didn't play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy it really means a lot, so thank you so much for coming."
Osaka also spoke with Australia's Wide World of Sport after the match and touched on the nerves she felt heading into this final. "I think for me I was really nervous because I wanted it very badly. Every match that I played that I played on Rod Laver I would tap my name because I wanted to see a 2021 under the 2019, so it was just a battle of holding my composure"
With the win Osaka became just the third singles player in the Open Era to win each of their first four Grand Slam finals, joining Monica Seles and Roger Federer. "Hopefully I will get as close to their careers as I can," Osaka said of joining that club and she also looked forward to the two majors she hasn't won -- the French Open and Wimbledon.
"For me I feel like there's no reason why I shouldn't do in those tournaments. I think its a matter of being comfortable and hopefully as I play more matches on those surfaces I'll get better."
The Australian Open saw its share of ups and downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament was pushed back by three weeks to accommodate players quarantining and for safety protocols and while fans attended much of the event, there was a five day lockdown because of an outbreak of the virus at a hotel near the tournament site and fans were not allowed.
The 2021 Australian Open men's final is on Sunday, and Novak Djokovic will be going for a second three-peat down under against Daniil Medvedev, who's playing in his second career Grand Slam final.