The 2019 Australian Open women’s final ended with Japan’s Naomi Osaka winning her second straight Grand Slam final, as Osaka edged Petra Kvitova 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4 in roughly two and a half hours. The win means Osaka is the first Japanese tennis player (man or woman) to be the world #1 player, she’s also the first Japanese player to win the Australian Open, Asia-Pacific’s Grand Slam.
Osaka overcame a second set collapse from 5-3 0-40 up to regain her focus and form in the third set and take the match. Kvitova’s aggressive play was at times effective but also more error prone than the baseliner Osaka, who matched up well and was the better player when focused. Osaka’s clutch play was the difference all tournament as four of her seven wins came in three sets. She dropped the second set in both the semifinal and the final before recovering to dominate the final frame.
The first set was a nip and tuck affair with long games from 2-2 until 4-3. Osaka was forced to save five break points during that period, while Kvitova saved one. The set would roll on to a tiebreak after Kvitova saved two break points serving 5-6 to avoid giving away the set. The ensuing first set tiebreak was one way traffic for Oaska who went up 5-1 quickly and then took it 7-2 on her third set point of the match.
In the second set Kvitova worked to make her move and get back in the match going up 2-0. However she lost the ensuing service game and then another service game at love to fall behind a break 3-2. Osaka would hold to 5-4 and force Kvitova to save three match points (from 0-40) to stay alive. Osaka’s failure to close out the match increased her tension and she was broken in the next service game to return the match to 5-5. Kvitova was still feeling the pressure though, as she saved a break point in her next service game to take a 6-5 second set lead against Osaka, who was playing aggressively from both wings. Near tears, Osaka imploded in the next service game and was broken at love to drop the set 7-5.
After the set break she returned to the form that had put her up 7-6 5-3 in the first place, breaking Kvitova for 2-1 and then saving a break point in what was likely Kvitova’s final chance to get back into the match at 3-2. Osaka would have a series of break points in Kvitova’s 2-4 service game but the Czech saved them to stay within touching distance. Osaka, who had served relatively well besides the second set blip, went to the line at 5-4 and played a perfect service game to secure victory against a dejected Kvitova 7-6 5-7 6-4.
With the win, the 21 year old moves to 2-0 in Grand Slam finals after having previously never made a quarterfinal or better in a slam. In short, it’s been a meteoric rise for Osaka and there’s no reason why she cannot continue to develop her game and retain the world #1 ranking for multiple seasons. She’s set to be a title contender for most of the big tournaments, especially those on faster surfaces. After the mess that was the 2018 US Open final, Osaka’s first slam title, her second, coming via comeback, is a sweet victory.
After losing what was by far her most challenging match of the tournament, Kvitova (28) drops to 2-1 in slam finals but has reached a career high ranking and her best result since the horrific knife attack that damaged her hand and nearly ended her career. She has every chance at lifting a third slam title this year.