Osaka edges Kvitova for Australian Open title

The victory allows the 21-year-old Osaka to become the first tennis player from Japan to reach No. 1 in the rankings.

But Osaka's latest triumph nearly never happened, with the temperamental young talent threatening to mentally unravel after blowing three match points in a row with Kvitova serving at 3-5 and love-40 down in the second set.

She broke Kvitova in the third game of the final set and converted her fifth matchpoint to end a superb final in two hours and 27 minutes, receiving the acclaim of the crowd in stark contrast to her last Grand Slam success. After Kvitova double-faulted to offer up a break point at 1-all, Osaka converted it with a cross-court backhand victor.

Osaka's superstar status in the U.S. was solidified when she beat Williams in the U.S. Open women's singles finals in September. She is the first woman to win back-to-back Majors, other than Serena Williams, since Kim Clijsters at the beginning of this decade. She would not let this lead disappear.

Naomi Osaka appeared ready for bed during her post-match news conference, which did not get underway until after midnight in Melbourne.

She was born in Japan.

Not many of them win 14 in a row to become the first new victor since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to snare back-to-back Slams.

"I just told myself that it is a final and I am playing against Petra and she is a great champion". It was not, however, what caused her eyes to well up during the trophy ceremony.

And to think, a year ago, Osaka was ranked 72nd.

The Czech two-time Wimbledon champion overcame incredible odds to even play tennis again after a knife attack damaged her racquet hand in late 2016.

Kvitova was seen with her head in her hands moments after the match was completed, seemingly processing how far she has come since undergoing surgery on her playing hand following the robbery at her apartment in the Czech Republic.

On a somewhat cloudy, rather comfortable evening, with only a slight breeze and the temperature around 75 degrees (25 Celsius), both women hit the ball as hard as can be.

When Krejcikova was taken to deuce in the 12th game, the Australians had a set point.

Strong willpower is a trait Osaka shares with Kvitova.

She felt this was exhibited during her run to the final when twice she fought back from a set down to win and remain alive in the tournament.

How pivotal was that moment?

Petra Kvitova missed out on a third grand slam title at the Australian Open but said she had already won her biggest battle. Osaka, meanwhile, entered the day having won 59 matches anywhere after going up by a set. Turned out, that wasn't the case.

"I didn't have a choice on how long the break was".

  • Angelo Rivera