12 months ago, Naomi Osaka was ranked 72nd in the world and without Grand Slam clout. Today, she put up a solid performance to beat Czech’s Petra Kvitova 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-4 and clinch the Australian Open title – her second straight Grand Slam crown – and also, claim the WTA world number one ranking.
The 21-year-old made history by becoming the first Japanese player – man or woman – to be ranked the number one player in the world, and also the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to back up a maiden Grand Slam title with another major title immediately.
Osaka, who will officially be ranked No.1 in the world when the updated rankings list is released on Monday, is the only Japanese player to have won a Grand Slam title.
Petra Kvitova, seeded eight, was hoping to claim her third Grand Slam title to add to the Wimbledon titles she won in 2011 and 2014, but Osaka proved too strong for her.
Both women kept things with serve in the opening set, guiding the set into a tiebreaker, which Osaka powered through. The Japanese then got to the brink of closing out the match in straight sets when she was 5-3 up with three championship points in the second set, but Kvitova fought back, winning four games on the trot to take the set and level the match, forcing a decider.
Osaka, however, got back on song in the third set and secured the decisive break in the third game to go 2-1 up. From there, there was no looking back as she went on to seal victory in 2 hours and 27 minutes.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2019
“Huge congrats to Petra. I’ve always wanted to play you,” Osaka said during the trophy presentation.
“You’ve been through so much and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted this to be our first match. You’re really amazing and I’m honoured to have played you in the final of a Grand Slam.
“Thanks to my team. I don’t think I would have made it through this week without you guys. Behind a tennis player is always a team and I’m really grateful.”
For Kvitova, this tournament marked the first time she had reached a Grand Slam final since being seriously injured with a knife during a home invasion in December 2016.
“It’s crazy. I can’t really believe that I just played the final of a Grand Slam again,” she said in an emotional speech.
“Thank you [to my team] for sticking with me even if we didn’t know if I would be able to hold a racquet again. You were there every single day supporting me and staying positive for me, which I really needed. I probably wasn’t really easy, so thank you.”