Japan’s Naomi Osaka claimed her second Australian Open title with a straight sets victory over Jennifer Brady.
The win will see Osaka’s star rise further after an impressive year, in which she has been undefeated since February 2020 and a vocal proponent of racial justice off the court. She will rise to the rank of world number two after this win, a 6-4 6-3 result that showcased her mastery of the hard court.
This victory is Osaka’s second Australian Open title – she won her first at the 2019 tournament. It is also her fourth Grand Slam win, her other successes coming at the 2018 and 2020 US Opens. Victory over Brady means that Osaka continues her unbeaten run in major finals.
Osaka was the favourite in this final, and had had a largely easy path there, despite needing to see two match points in the fourth round against Gabrine Muguruza. She also dethroned Serena Williams in the semi-finals, raising huge questions about the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s future in the sport.
It appeared that Brady was suffering from the pressure in the first set
Brady making the final was a story in itself, as she was the only player forced into a hard quarantine as the other players practiced – she used her hotel room walls to practice, and overcame that huge disadvantage to fight for her first Grand Slam title.
It appeared that Brady was suffering from the pressure in the first set, although Osaka also appeared a little uncertain at 3-1 up. She began to miss first serves and surrendered control of the rallies, bringing the score line even at 3-3. Osaka lost two first serves, and the score levelled again at 4-4, 30-30. Both players pulled out some brilliant shots – a backhand response to an Osaka drop shot, a bold forehand from Osaka in the middle of a rally – but Osaka eventually took the game.
At 4-5 to Osaka, Brady mounted a 40-15 lead, but Osaka began to pile on the pressure, forcing the American to start making mistakes. Brady doubled-faulted on a second save, and lost her fourth point in a row with a routine forehead. At this point, the momentum was all Osaka, and she took advantage.
Come the second set, Osaka made a fast start. She took a 2-0 lead and forced Brady into some clumsy footwork, which only made the Japanese player’s confidence grow further. She played fantastic tennis to open up a 4-0 lead, although Brady’s excellent defensive work soon put her on the scoreboard.
The American held for love and took her second game in very little time, but perfect forehand work and a fantastic ace quickly brought Osaka one game away from the title. Brady held on a deuce and took one last game, but on her serve, Osaka made quick work of her opponent and secured the title.
I really want to thank my team – this one is for you
– Naomi Osaka
After the match, Osaka said: “Jennifer, I want to congratulate you. After we’d played at the US Open I told everyone you’d be a problem, and I was right. To see your growth over the last few months is really cool.
“And to your team – my team is like my family so I’m sure you and your team have a lot of cool adventures together too. I for sure know that your mom and friends and family are very proud of you. I know we’re going to play a lot more matches.
“I really want to thank my team – this one is for you. Lastly but not least, thank you to you guys. Thank you for coming and watching. To have this energy really means a lot. Thank you so much. Thank you for opening your hearts and arms towards us. I feel like playing a Grand Slam right now is a privilege, and thank you for this opportunity.”
Brady said: “Firstly I’d like to congratulate Naomi. She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she’s doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls at home are watching are inspired by what she’s doing. I’d like to congratulate her team. You’re obviously doing something special and she’s getting better every day.
“I’d like to say thanks to my team. Without you guys I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and let’s keep going for more. Mom, I know you’re watching right now in front of the TV, probably crying, so… it was special to play in front of fans. Tonight, it wasn’t meant to be, but hopefully there’s many more.”
The next Grand Slam is expected to be the French Open, a tournament in which Osaka has never passed the third round. However, that will be far from her mind as she basks in her latest achievement.
At just 23, Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam winner, one of the leading voices in the future of women’s tennis, and she has so much potential to become an even greater player with many more titles to her name.