Whether or not Naomi Osaka claims the Australian Open championship, she will be expected to win, and make no mistake, this seems certain: Tennis has a new dominant power.
Sure, it’s obviously likely that Osaka will be beaten in Saturday’s title match at Melbourne Park by 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady.
After all, thanks to a big serve and a big forehand, Brady is also emerging as a power on hard courts. Before losing to her in the U.S, she forced Osaka to three sets. Last September’s open semifinals, then shook off a two-week rough quarantine in Australia to reach her first Grand Slam final.
However, it was No. 3-seeded Osaka who dominated and defeated Serena Williams on Thursday in the semifinals.
Who’s riding a winning 20-match run dating to last season.
Who has already spent some time in the No. 1 rankings.
Who’s looking for her second Australian Open title and fourth trophy in the Slam, and she’s just 23 yet.
Like 23-time major champion Williams, there is a resilience that Osaka continues to display when the finish line is close to the most critical stages of their sport: in Grand Slam quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, she has run her record to a combined 11-0.
Whether at lower-level WTA tournaments or at any Grand Slam event, Osaka always talks about needing more consistency.
Occasionally, she stumbles early in the majors, such as a third-round exit a year ago as Australia’s defending champion or a Wimbledon first-round defeat in 2019.
But she seals the deal until she gets down to the end.
“I have this attitude about me, where people don’t remember the runners-up. “Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father before the family moved to New York when she was 3, explained, “You could, but the name of the winner is the one that is engraved.
I think I’ll be fighting the hardest in the final,” she went on.” “That’s where I think you kind of set yourself apart.”
In the Australian Open semifinals, Williams was 8-0 before Osaka put an end to it by winning 6-3, 6-4, reeling off the last eight points of the game after the second set was even 4-all.
This is what went through Osaka’s mind when they hugged on the net at the end: “Always a surreal moment, just to see her close up in real life, like.”
The 39-year-old Williams has long been regarded by Osaka as an idol.
At the most basic level, their games are very similar: speedy serves, dangerous forehands and the steely attitude on court.
During the thrilling match against Osaka last year in New York, Brady got a sense of that.
She just puts a lot of pressure on you to serve well, because in, like, 45 seconds, she’s holding the servant. … With a lot of force, she’s coming at you, so it puts a lot of pressure on you to be aggressive and try and get the first hit. “Brady, a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania who played college tennis at UCLA, said, “Otherwise, you’re the one going, and I don’t want to run. “She is simply putting a lot of pressure on you to perform well.”
Brady admitted that this time, she expects to struggle with some nerves toward Osaka.
Given the stakes, that’s only normal.
The key would be to restrict how much that affects her playing, and for how long.
Listen, on Saturday, I don’t know how I’m going to feel. I would tell that I can enjoy the moment and just try to not really worry too much about playing tennis. But there’s going to be moments, there’s going to be games, there’s going to be points, where I’m going to be thinking, ‘Wow, this could be my first Grand Slam title,’ said Brady, who in the last game needed five game points to close her three-set semifinal win over Karolina Muchova.
“Yeah, I’m definitely going to have these thoughts,” she said. “But it really is more than just trying to control emotions.”