For her fourth Grand Slam singles title in as many finals, Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open, dispatching American Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 to secure her reputation as the world’s best hard-court player and today’s game’s most clutch player.
She has done most of what she set out to do in tennis, tangibly. And he’s only only 23 years old now.
“The biggest thing [remaining] that I want to achieve is — this is going to sound really odd, but hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favorite player,” Osaka said.
Osaka, who won half of her last eight majors, became the third player after Monica Seles and Roger Federer to win their first four grand finals in the Open Era.
In four consecutive years, she became the ninth woman to win at least one major in the Open Era, joining these names: King, Goolagong, Evert, Navratilova, Graf, Seles, Henin and Williams.
“I feel like Naomi Osaka is starting to form an aura around her now of almost invincibility,” on hard courts, Chris Evert said on ESPN. “Something we’ve seen for 20, 25 years with Serena.”
In her second service game, Brady, a powerful server, broke while struggling to get her first serve in. While the former UCLA Bruin broke right back, on break point she netted a forehand unforced error to hand the opening set to Osaka.
The first four games of the second set were then won by Osaka en route to her second Australian Open title.
“The last time I won here I was kind of playing off anger, in a way. Just because I felt like I wanted to stamp my place on the tour,” she said of her 2019 title. “This time around I’m more at peace with where I am, and I’m honestly just happy to be playing a Grand Slam in a pandemic.”
The current and solo active women with more major titles — Serena Williams (23) and Venus Williams(7).
“I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up,” Osaka said after sweeping Serena by 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals. “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.”
The next challenge: seeking success on courts of clay or turf. Osaka has never been past the third round of the French Open or Wimbledon, the two majors that followed.
“I have to get comfortable on those surfaces,” she said. “I didn’t play juniors, so I didn’t grow up playing on grass at all. So I honestly think I’d have better luck on clay, because I think [in 2019] I didn’t play bad at all [reaching the quarterfinals of two pre-French Open events].”
A breakthrough after the pandemic return, Brady, a 25-year-old who was never the No. 1 singles player at UCLA in two seasons, continued.
Last summer, she captured her first WTA tournament title, then made it past the fourth round of a major to reach the U.S. for the first time. Semifinals open.
In Melbourne, she did one better as, supposedly, in January, the only one of more than 50 singles players put into hard quarantine for two weeks to make it through the third round. By throwing a ball against her mattress, she prepared for the Grand Slam tourney.
“I think I belong at this level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable,” said Brady, who was ranked 125th at the end of 2019, 45th at the start of the pandemic and is now up to a career-high ranking of 13. “If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t think it’s possible, or it would feel like it’s going to Mars.”
Now, Brady is in a convenient spot to apply for the U.S. The four-single-player Olympic team (behind Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin) will come from the WTA rankings following the June French Open.
With the men’s final between record eight-time champion Novak Djokovic and No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev, the Australian Open finishes Sunday.