Naomi Osaka continues her bid for a fourth Grand Slam title when she takes on American Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open women’s final in Melbourne on Saturday morning.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Osaka is currently enjoying a 20-match winning streak, with her last defeat came on February 7, 2020. She sealed her place in Saturday’s showpiece with a straight-sets victory over seven-time Australian Open winner Serena Williams.
The Japanese star punished an error-strewn display from Williams to prevail 6-3 6-4, ending the 39-year-old’s quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title.
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🚨 Women's singles final locked in 🚨
🇺🇸 @jennifurbrady95 🆚 @naomiosaka 🇯🇵
This is going to be good 🍿#AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/P1uUEhQX9x
Osaka has been in imperious form throughout the last fortnight, surrendering the solitary set en route to the final, surviving two match points against two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza in the last 16.
Brady enjoyed serene progress to the quarter-finals, registering four consecutive straight-sets wins before recovering from a set down to defeat her compatriot Jessica Pegula.
This saw the 25-year-old seal her spot in a second successive Grand Slam semi-final, where she came through a gruelling three-set battle against Ashleigh Barty’s conqueror Karolina Muchova.
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Osaka vs Brady: Tale of the Tape
Osaka has prevailed in two of the pair’s three meetings, but their most recent showdown proved to be defining for both players.
They locked horns in the semi-finals of last year’s US Open, as Osaka came through a pulsating three-set battle, before defeating Victoria Azarenka to capture her third Grand Slam crown.
The 2019 Australian Open champion has never failed to lift a Grand Slam tournament when progressing to the quarter-finals – a record she’ll be desperate to maintain in Melbourne.
😏 if you're into Saturday's women's singles final ✨@jennifurbrady95 | #AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/fydDFpeorw
Despite suffering defeat, Brady described that memorable Flushing Meadows semi-final as one of the greatest matches of her career, and it marked her major breakthrough.
Having battled with injury after struggling to impose herself among the world’s top 50, the 22nd seed predominantly played doubles on her return, but now she’s established herself as a credible threat for major titles.
She has reaffirmed that her US Open exploits were no accident courtesy of a string of dominant performances down under, and now she’s one win away from fulfilling her Grand Slam dreams.
Behind the scenes with @naomiosaka earlier this fortnight.#AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/9aOUtBlQWB
Osaka: People don’t remember the runner-up!
“I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up. You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved. I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that’s where you sort of set yourself apart.
“I played [Jennifer] Brady in the semis of the US Open. It is easily one of my most memorable matches. I think it was just super high quality throughout. It’s not really surprising at all to see her in a final.
“I never really look at stats or achievements or anything like that. I feel like maybe later in my life I’ll appreciate the things that I’ve done more.
“As of right now, I feel like I’m chasing records that can’t be broken no matter how hard I try. I think it’s the human trait of not being satisfied.”
Osaka’s Route to the Final
Osaka: The role model
Coach Wim Fissette says Osaka not only wants to win Grand Slams and hoist trophies but also hopes to be a role model in the way she carries herself on court.
“She knows the experience of the past years when her attitude is good, her mind is very clear what she needs to do,” Fissette told reporters.
“And then she plays well. Doesn’t mean you cannot be negative at some point.
“But to reset immediately, that’s a very important one.
“It’s more coming from Naomi that she wants to be that person that always behaves well on court. That’s kind of a role model also for younger players.”
Coach's corner 💭#AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/qEHkSGCPLR
Brady: It’s about trying to control the emotions
“I was training at the Evert Tennis Academy and they were always telling me I had potential to be a great tennis player, but it was just finding my game. I had a bit of a temper as a kid. I wasn’t really mentally the toughest.
“So I think that has kind of just shifted my whole career, just being able to stay in tough moments, close out tough matches, just fight my way back regardless of the score.
2017: Fourth round
2018: First round
2020: First round
2021: [email protected] | #AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/4Ww17vxtrO
“I don’t know how I’m going feel on Saturday. I can say I can enjoy the moment and just try to play tennis and not really think too much about it.
“There’s going to be moments, there’s going to be games, there’s going to be points where I’m going to be thinking about, Wow, this could be my first Grand Slam title. I will definitely have those thoughts, but it’s more just trying to control the emotions.”
Brady’s Route to the Final
Jen survived hard quarantine
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Brady’s coach Michael Geserer says they respect Osaka, but Brady is coming to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on Saturday.
“When we had the pre-season, we thought, we are on the right track. The pre-season looked super strong and super good. I think she’s coming back to that level. I’m pretty positive. Naomi is a good player, no doubt. We respect her as an opponent. She did great winning the US Open, but we are there to go for the trophy, definitely.
“There will be nerves and she will feel the little pressure but that’s healthy, that’s good. She also knows how to deal with it. She will perform well.”
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