Mon, 08 Mar 2021

Japan's Naomi Osaka has beaten American Jennifer Brady in straight sets in the Australian Open final to win her fourth Grand Slam title in as many major finals.

Osaka edged a tight first set and broke the American twice in the second to win 6-4, 6-3 in 77 minutes in front of thousands of fans at Rod Laver Arena.

Third seed Osaka preserves her 100 percent record in Grand Slam finals after winning the 2018 and 2020 US Opens and the 2019 title in Melbourne.

The 23-year-old, who also becomes the first woman since Monica Seles to win her first four major finals, will now rise to second in the world rankings.

Osaka, rated as the world's top-earning female athlete, saved two match points in the fourth round against Garbine Muguruza before going on to lift the trophy.

She has not lost a match in more than a year.

Climb to the top

Osaka's zen-like mentality and increased gravitas on and off the court have elevated her alongside Serena Williams to being the one of the most recognisable female athletes on the planet.

But it is her unceasing politeness away from the battlefield, coupled with the on-court steel that runs through all champions, that makes her stand apart.

"Do you like to be called Jenny or Jennifer?" she almost timidly asked Brady before embarking on her winner's speech on Saturday.

It was typical of Osaka, who also gave a deferential bow to Williams after knocking out her idol and 23-time Grand Slam champion in the semi-final.

Osaka will rise to number two in the world when the new rankings are released next week after a polished campaign which will reinforce the belief that she has taken over as the new queen of tennis.

New perspective

Osaka gained new perspective during the past year of Covid-19 pandemic, in which she became a vocal leader in the fight against racial injustice in the United States.

Her increased presence as a campaigner for social justice has fuelled Osaka on court and she now possesses a 21-match unbeaten streak after Saturday's final, a run that included winning last year's US Open title for the second time.

"I think the thing that I'm most proud of is now mentally strong I've become," she said. "I used to be really up and down. For me, I had a lot of doubts in myself.

"I think, the quarantine process and seeing everything that's going on in the world, for me it put a lot into perspective."

Once painfully shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, Osaka used her growing stature to weigh in on controversial topics at Melbourne Park, even condemning ex-Tokyo Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori for sexist comments.

Osaka has become the world's richest female athlete, overtaking Williams, but she's maintained a humble and respectful attitude amid her rise to stardom.


Originally published on RFI

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