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Osaka Won Australian Open For The Second Time

Naomi Osaka speaks on stage as she holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at Melbourne Park on February 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Matt King / Getty Images
After a close first set in the Australian Open 2021 final, Naomi Osaka cruised to her second Aussie Open title and her fourth overall Grand Slam victory, beating Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, on Saturday. 

Ranked No. 3 in the world, Osaka is now 4-0 in major finals and became the first woman to win her first four Grand Slam finals since Monica Seles 30 years ago, the source noted. At just 23 years old, it sure seems like Osaka is the future of tennis. 

And while she’s still early in her career, it’s impossible not to imagine where she could end up in the history books and what records she could set. The same goes for how she could continue to impact the sport. Following Osaka’s win over world No. 24 Brady, she was asked during her post-match press conference about the biggest thing she hopes to achieve on or off the court that she hasn’t done yet. Her answer was something she’s also familiar with herself. 

Naomi Osaka plays against Jennifer Brady of the United States in the women's singles final, during day 13 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 20, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: TPN
Osaka said: “I feel like the biggest thing I want to achieve is — this is gonna sound really odd — hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favorite player or something. “For me, I think that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. I think I have those feelings of watching my favorite players. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play Li Na, but yeah, I just think that that’s how the sport moves forward.” 

While Osaka is disappointed she never got to play against Li — the two-time Grand Slam champ, including at the Australian Open, who retired in 2014 — she’s played several matches against her “idol,” Serena Williams. Most recently, Osaka topped Williams in the Aussie Open semifinals Wednesday and had beat her in the 2018 U.S. Open final on her way to her first Grand Slam title.

Naomi Osaka poses with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning her Women’s Singles Final match against Jennifer Brady at Melbourne Park on 20 February 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Andy Cheung
Prior to that 2018 final, Osaka said she should view Williams as just another opponent and not her idol. But when she was asked if she had a message for Serena going into the match, Osaka laughed while saying: “I love you.” Between how young Osaka is now as one of the best players in the world and how long some players’ careers are lasting, tennis fans surely hope Osaka will someday get the chance to face an opponent who once idolized her.

Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3. She has been a vocal advocate for Black victims of racism and police violence, saying she would refuse to play a match at one tournament last year to spotlight the issue. “She’s such an inspiration to us all, and what she’s doing for the game is amazing in getting the sport out there,” said Brady, who was seeded 22nd. 

“I hope young girls at home are watching and inspired by what she’s doing.” Brady had to go through a hard quarantine for 15 days when she arrived in Australia in January because someone on her flight tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived. Playing Osaka represented a big step up in competition during this tournament for Brady, who had not faced anyone ranked in the Top 25 nor anyone who previously appeared in so much as one Grand Slam semifinal. 

Naomi Osaka poses with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup and Jennifer Brady of the United States poses with the runners-up plate after the Women’s Singles Final match at Melbourne Park on 20 February 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Andy Cheung.
Brady’s only previous final four appearances at a major came at the U.S. Open in September, when she lost to Osaka in three sets. She wasn’t able to push the champ as much this time on an evening that was breezy and cooler than it’s been lately, with the temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The attendance was announced at 7,381; spectators were allowed back after being barred earlier in the tournament during a COVID-19 lockdown. “I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans,” Osaka said, “so just to have this energy, it really means a lot.” The final turned at 4-all when Brady used an on-the-run lob winner that she punctuated by waving her arms to request more noise from the crowd. That earned a breakpoint — convert that, and she would serve for the opening set. 

But Osaka erased the chance with a cross-court forehand winner, and two errors by Brady made it 5-4. Osaka then broke to grab the set, helped by Brady’s double-fault and a netted forehand on a short ball to end it. “Happens maybe one in 10 times,” Brady said of that mistake, “or hopefully less.” That was part of the run that put Osaka ahead 4-0 in the second set and she was on her way. Now only two active women own more major trophies: Serena Williams, with 23, and her sister, Venus, with seven. 

Osaka beat Serena Williams, a player she calls her idol — in the semifinals Thursday. And as much as Osaka makes it plain that she wants to keep adding to her Grand Slam collection, there are larger goals, too. “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 or something,” said Osaka, who signed autographs for fans after her victory. “For me, I think that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. ... That’s how the sport moves forward.”
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