Japan’s Naomi Osaka claims victory over the 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady, winning her fourth major crown at the age of 23.
Naomi Osaka has given Jennifer Brady a lesson in Grand Slam tennis as she cruised to a 6-4, 6-3 win to secure her second Australian Open title and cement her standing as the new queen of the game.
Osaka’s victory on Saturday over the 22nd-seeded American at a floodlit Rod Laver Arena gave the Japanese third seed her fourth major crown at the age of 23.
Fans hoping for a repeat of the pair’s engrossing US Open semi-final last year were left disappointed as Brady froze in the spotlight of her first Grand Slam final.
US Open champion Osaka played some way short of her best tennis and joined Brady in contributing to a dour, error-strewn first set.
But she settled to clinch six straight games, roaring to a 4-0 lead in the second before serving out the match to love.
A big serve sealed it, causing Brady to fire a forehand return long, and Osaka held her racket over her head and beamed in an understated celebration.
Osaka, who won the 2019 tournament, offered Brady warm congratulations and thanked the fans at the trophy ceremony.
“When we played in the semis of the US Open a couple of months ago, and I told everyone that ‘Listen you’re going to be a problem’. And I was right,” said Osaka, who will be world number two when the rankings are updated.
“It feels really incredible for me. I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy it really means a lot.”
Although it was a tough first Grand Slam final for Brady, she broke new ground in a remarkable run after being one of the 72 players unable to train during their two-week hard quarantine in the lead-up.
“First I would like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title,” said the 25-year-old.
“She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she’s doing for the game is amazing and getting the sport out there and I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she’s doing.
Once painfully shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, Osaka used her growing stature to weigh in on controversial topics at Melbourne Park, even condemning ex-Tokyo Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori for sexist comments.
Osaka has become the world’s richest female athlete, overtaking Serena Williams, but she has maintained a humble and respectful attitude amid her rise to stardom.
Born on October 16, 1997, in Osaka, Japan, a year later her family moved to the United States.
Her Haitian father Leonard met and married her mother Tamaki when he decamped to Japan from New York to study.
Now based in Florida, Osaka has dual Japanese-American citizenship.
Osaka developed into a big-stage player after making her Grand Slam debut at the 2016 Australian Open.
It took a few years to find her feet before she stunned Williams with a straight-sets victory in a controversial 2018 US Open final and backed that up with a triumph at Melbourne Park just a few months later.
Osaka, at just 21, powered to world number one but she felt unfulfilled.
“I think that also put a lot of pressure on me because I just felt in a way it was me against the world,” she said.
It led to a difficult period where she felt burdened by expectations until heeding a more relaxed demeanour.
And she now has the tennis world at her feet.
“I used to weigh my entire existence on if I won or lost a tennis match,” she said.
“That’s just not how I feel any more.”