Naomi Osaka, the 2019 Australian Open champion, is back in the final yet again in Melbourne after she beat her idol Serena Williams in straight sets, 6-3 6-4, in the semifinal on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday.
In Saturday’s final, Osaka will lock horns against American Jennifer Brady. Brady edged past Karolina Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4 to book her maiden spot in the final of a Grand Slam tournament.
Paths to the final
Osaka was slow to start off the blocks in the semifinal, losing her opening service game to give the veteran American an initial advantage. However, the 23-year-old Japanese woman was quick to regroup and broke Serena’s serve in the fourth and sixth games. Those two breaks were enough for the three-time Grand Slam champion to close out the opening set 6-3. The feature of Williams-Osaka semifinal battle was the number of service breaks throughout the match. While Osaka converted all four break point opportunities that came her way, Williams was just able to convert two out of the seven break point opportunities she had. That was the difference in the end, as Osaka yet again overpowered her idol at a Major after she beat Williams to lift her maiden US Open title, back in 2018.
For Jennifer Brady, her fairytale story at the hard court Major continues at the Australian Open as well after she was the first-time Grand Slam semifinalist at the US Open last year. Osaka defeated her in that match. At Melbourne Park this year, Brady has dropped just two sets en route to a maiden Grand Slam final and will now face, by far, her toughest opponent of the fortnight.
Naomi Osaka vs Jennifer Brady
On the WTA Tour so far, Osaka marginally leads Brady 2-1. Osaka won when the duo locked horns in the US Open semifinal last year. In a tantalizing three-set contest, the Japanese woman got better of the American, 7-6 3-6 6-3.
Osaka has a perfect 3-0 record in the finals of Majors, and starts as a heavy favorite to extend that against Brady. As she gears up for the final, Osaka can draw inspiration in abundance from her victory over Petra Kvitova in the 2019 Australian Open final, as she hopes to add another Australian Open crown to her trophy cabinet.
Defeating former Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Williams en route to the final, Osaka starts as a firm favorite heading into the final. She will face the pressure to perform, and Brady can take advantage of this by starting off strong. She can add scoreboard pressure to the three-time Major champion to the pressure of being the favorite. In her first ever Grand Slam final, there is no doubt that Brady will feel the goosebumps of the occasion’s enormity once she steps onto the courts on Saturday, but if she is able to manage her nerves and continues to play her free-flowing brand of tennis, the American might have a realistic chance of upsetting Osaka.
An interesting and captivating Women’s Final awaits us in Melbourne. Naomi Osaka hopes to win her fourth Major–the second Down Under–and Brady fancies winning her first career Major at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
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