Naomi Osaka defeats Jennifer Brady in straight sets to win the 2021 Australian Open women’s title


MELBOURNE, Australia – Naomi Osaka’s trouble at Grand Slam tournaments comes in Week 1. However, get past that stage on the big hard courts and start preparing to engrave her name on the trophy.

Osaka won her fourth title in her last eight Slam appearances, emerging from what was initially a tight Australian Open final and walked away by winning six straight games to beat Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday.

With a strong serve that produced six aces, Osaka improved to 4-0 in the grand finals, the first woman to start her career that way since Monica Seles did 30 years ago. For Osaka, that’s part of a 12-0 record so far in the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals in the majors.

“He played really well when he had to,” Brady said. “He made good shots when he needed them.”

Osaka, the 2020 AP Female Athlete of the Year, is also on a 21-game winning streak dating back to last season. That includes a championship at last year’s US Open. He also won the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019.

“Tonight was not meant to be,” Brady said after participating in his first Grand Slam final at age 25. “Hopefully there are many more.”

Osaka, 23, was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3 years old.

He was seeded No. 3 at Melbourne Park and is now confident of being promoted to No. 2.

Only two active women hold more Slam titles than Osaka: Serena Williams, with 23, and her sister, Venus, with seven.

The next task for Osaka is to improve on clay and grass – she has never made it past the third round at the French Open or Wimbledon.

“She’s a huge inspiration to all of us, and what she’s doing for the game is amazing getting the sport out there,” said Brady, an American who was seeded 22. “I hope the girls at home are watching e inspired by what he’s doing. “

Brady had to go through a rough quarantine for 15 days when he arrived in Australia in January because someone on his flight tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived.

This was a huge step forward in the competition during this tournament for Brady, who had not faced anyone ranked in the Top 25 or anyone who had previously appeared in a Grand Slam semifinal.

Brady’s only previous Final Four appearance in a Major was at the US Open in September, when he lost to Osaka in three sets.

This time he could not pressure the champion so much.

“I told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a problem, and he was right,” Osaka told Brady with a smile, after asking if he would rather be called Jenny or Jennifer. “Seeing his growth in the last few months is really great for me.

During the pre-game coin toss, the women’s silver trophy was placed on a clear plastic pedestal, not far from Osaka, on its side of the net. After beating Serena Williams in the semi-finals, Osaka had made her intentions clear: “I have this mindset that people don’t remember runners-up. You could, but the winner’s name is the one on it.”

And she keeps making sure that name is hers.

It was colder than Melbourne recently, with the temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) and a breeze making service throws difficult for both players, who were grabbing the ball instead of hitting it and saying, “What! I feel! “

The stadium was allowed to be at half capacity, around 7,500 people, after spectators were completely excluded at the beginning of the tournament for five days during a COVID-19 blackout.

“Thanks for coming over and seeing us. It feels really amazing to me,” said Osaka, whose 2020 US Open title came in empty stadiums. “I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with the fans, so just having this energy really means a lot.”

In Sunday’s men’s final (7:30 pm local time, 3:30 am ET on ESPN and ESPN App), No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be seeking his ninth Australian Open championship and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall. He faces No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, who is on a 20-game winning streak in his second grand final.

On Saturday, the women’s game was locked at 4, when Brady used a balloon winner in the race to score by waving his arms to call for more noise from the crowd. That earned him a breaking point: turn it up and she would serve for the first set.

But Osaka erased the opportunity with a cross forehand and two errors by Brady made it 5-4.

Osaka then broke to take the set, aided by Brady’s double fault and a forehand at the net on a short ball to end it.

“It happens maybe one in 10 times,” Brady said of that mistake, “or hopefully less.”

That was part of the six-game streak that put Osaka ahead 4-0 in the second and she was on her way.

“He plays so aggressively that it puts so much pressure on you to perform well,” Brady said, “and that’s something that not all tennis players have that ability.”

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