Awesome Osaka “honoured” to claim AO title over Kvitova

Published by AAP

Champion Naomi Osaka chats to Petra Kvitova following their sensational Australian final open final.
The 21-year-old clinched back-to-back Grand Slam titles to become the world No.1 for the first time.

Japanese prodigy Naomi Osaka is the undisputed new dominant force in women’s tennis after edging Petra Kvitova in a drama-charged Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.

Osaka claimed her first Open crown and the world No.1 ranking with a steely 7-6 (2) 5-7 6-4 triumph in their winner-takes-all showdown on Saturday night.

In denying Kvitova an emotional third Grand Slam title and securing back-to-back majors of her own, the 21-year-old supplanted Simona Halep to become the youngest player to scale the summit of women’s tennis since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.

“I’m beyond excited to become the new WTA world No.1,” Osaka said. “I’ve always dreamt of being in this position.”

Ranked 72nd this time last year, Osaka is also the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to land successive majors, backing up her stunning breakthrough over the American superstar in last year’s US Open final with a stylish encore at Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka threatened to mentally unravel after losing 18 of 22 points from 5-3 and 40-love up on Kvitova’s serve in the second set.

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But Asia’s new sporting superstar regained her cool to take the deciding set, the match, the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup and $4.1 million winner’s cheque after two hours and 27 minutes.

“I told myself you could do nothing about it,” Osaka said of her mid-match wobble.

“I just told myself that it is a final and I am playing against Petra and she is a great champion. I can’t let myself act immature in a way. I should be grateful to be here and that is what I tried to be.”

Kvitova hadn’t dropped a set in storming into her first Grand Slam final since landing her second Wimbledon crown in 2014.

But she fell victim to Osaka’s fearless stand-and-deliver groundstrokes in a big-hitting and compelling final.

The 28-year-old also had the chance to capture the world’s top ranking, but was gracious in defeat.

Just 25 months ago doctors feared Kvitova would never play again after being stabbed and had her left playing hand – which she described as her “greatest gift” – shredded in a violent attack in her own home.

“This is crazy. I cannot believe I just played the final of a grand slam again,” she said. “So it was a great final. Well done, Naomi.

“To your team as well, you really played well and congrats for being No.1 as well.

“To my team, thank you for everything but mostly thank you for sticking with me even we didn’t know if I was able to hold this racquet again.

“You were there every single day supporting me and staying positive for me, which I really needed.”

Robbed of the spotlight by Williams after her extraordinary meltdown in New York, Osaka on this occasion deflected the praise to her gallant opponent.

“Huge congrats to you, Petra. I always wanted to play you and you have been through so much,” Osaka said.

“You are really amazing and I am really honoured to have played you in the final of Grand Slam.”

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