Naomi Osaka Beats Jennifer Brady to Win Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — The most uncomfortable moment for Naomi Osaka on Saturday night was not when she faced a key break point in the first set of her Australian Open women’s singles final against Jennifer Brady. Nor was it when she was serving for the match in the second.

It came two hours after she closed out her 6-4, 6-3 victory at Rod Laver Arena. At the start of her news conference, Craig Tiley, the head of Tennis Australia, handed Osaka a flute of champagne and proposed a toast to her second Australian Open crown and fourth Grand Slam title.

Osaka, 23, brought the glass to her lips and tentatively took a sip, trying unsuccessfully to keep her expression neutral. She has never developed a taste for alcohol, she had explained earlier in the tournament, because she was told as a child that it was bad for her.

“Like it’s ruining your body or your liver,” she said. “I just want to give myself an advantage for as long as I can.”

On break point, Osaka missed her first serve, directed a second attempt at Brady’s body and then took the point with a forehand winner, one of four she’d record in the match. She won the next two points to seal the opening shut.

Brady took a 40-15 lead on her serve in the next game, only to be reeled in by Osaka, who broke her when Brady netted a short forehand — an error, she bemoaned, “that happens maybe one in ten times or hopefully less.”

For Osaka, the uncharacteristic miss telegraphed Brady’s unease.

“My mind just began thinking that she was either really nervous or really pressured and I should capitalize on that by trying to win as many games as I could, pace-wise,” Osaka said. “Because I feel like once a person loses the first set doubts start to creep in, so that’s when you really should put your foot on the gas.”

Nobody in the game right now is a better pacesetter than Osaka, who improved to 45-1 in Grand Slam matches when she wins the first set. She raced to a 4-0 lead in the second, needing 36 minutes to close out the match.

“She played really well when she had to,” Brady conceded. “She hit good shots when she needed them.”

Osaka, who also won the 2019 Australian Open, called it a privilege to be able to play a major tournament given the coronavirus pandemic. “I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans, so just to have this energy it really means a lot,” she said, referring to her three-set victory over Victoria Azarenka in New York.

“I don’t expect to win all my matches this year,” Osaka said, adding, “I don’t think it’s possible. Tennis players, we go through ups and downs. But for me, I only hope that my ups and downs are less drastic this year.”

Osaka’s long-term objective, she said, is to last long enough in tennis to someday face an opponent whom she inspired to take up the sport.

“For me, that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen to me,” she said.

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