I’ve been away for most of this weekend so have only now had a chance to write about Saturday’s final between Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova which was yet another absorbing match at this year’s Australian Open. In my opinion, it has been a terrific Slam. The week began with a surprising lack of chaos. It was rather refreshing as it meant the draw held up for the most part and produced some blockbuster match-ups for the later rounds which delivered some memorable matches. The tournament had a bit of everything as there were still some seismic upsets during the middle of the tournament and unexpected players breaking new ground at a Slam. Maintaining the recent trend, 23 of the last 25 Slams have now produced a first time Slam semi-finalist.
Back to Saturday’s final where it was Naomi Osaka who made it back-to-back Slam titles with a 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4 victory over Petra Kvitova in two hours and 27 minutes. It was a good final with flashes of stunning quality, clutch play and a fair share of twists and turns.
The first set, which was decided on the tiebreak, featured no breaks of serve. Both players had their opportunities to seal the elusive break, notably Kvitova, who missed five break points throughout the set including a 0-40 opening. Kvitova had some chances on Osaka second serves but was unable to execute. Kvitova then saved set points to hold on for the tiebreak with some gutsy one-two punches. While opportunities were missed, both players were clutch in defending their serves. In the tiebreak, Kvitova surprisingly backed off as Osaka, who hit four clean winners, claimed the opener.
Kvitova managed to score the first break of the match early on in the second set. However, she was unable to consolidate it with a few missed chances at 2-0. Like a London buses… after 13 consecutive service holds, the pair traded breaks of serve. This proved to be a crucial game as Osaka roared back into contention, winning four straight games. I thought Kvitova began to look a little fatigued as she repeatedly produced errors. The standard of the second set didn’t meet the lofty heights of the first. Osaka though was the more solid player and repeatedly managed to claw her way out of games when Kvitova seemed to have the upper hand.
Osaka chalked up three championship points on Kvitova’s serve, leading 5-3 in the second set. Kvitova managed to save them all with impressive resolve, crucially finding a first serve on all three. Osaka even racquet clapped Kvitova on one of the points. I wonder if the Japanese player relaxed for a moment. From there on in the second set, Osaka notably tightened and lost her way. The Japanese player was unable to serve out the set and was then broken to love on a double fault as Kvitova pojded her way into a third set.
Osaka ended a run of five straight games to Kvitova to level up at one game all in the decider. It was an important game and Osaka settled down from there on. Osaka said in her press conference that she had to turn off her feelings. I’m astonished that she was successfully able to do this in such a high-pressure environment and it really is a mark of her champion-like qualities. Osaka’s forehand was increasingly decisive in the decider, more so than Kvitova, and she scored what proved to be the crucial break of the third set in the next game. Osaka was continually tested in the third set as she faced a couple of similar situations to the second set. This time around, she was mentally defiant and passed each challenge with flying colours.
- Osaka faced a break point at *3-2 *30-40. While noticeably rushing, Osaka still conjured up two first serves, the latter an ace, and then won the game with a lethal forehand winner.
- Osaka carved out a 0-40 opening in Kvitova’s next service game, leading 4-2. Once again, Kvitova landed first serves on the break points and played an absolute blinder to hold. This time, Osaka retaliated with a love service hold of her own.
- Kvitova forced Osaka to serve out the title again at *5-4 and she did so with aplomb, to 15.
Osaka ascends to world number one which is staggering considering she was ranked at number 72 this time last year. Her resilience and ability to reset in the third set after missing championship points was pretty amazing. I don’t think there are many players on tour who would have been able to put that disappointment behind them to come back like that. Naomi is special.
My personal feelings of who I wanted to win the match were like a seesaw. I went in as Team Petra. When Naomi failed to serve out the match, I was then torn because I would have felt terrible for Naomi to have lost from championship points up. When Naomi rediscovered her form in the third set, I was back on team Petra. I was constantly rooting for the underdog 🤣.
I’m sad for Petra but it was still a great tournament and her first Slam final away from Wimbledon. I adore her fighting spirit. I hope this result will positively impact on her mindset at future Slams. I hope she can have another deep run at Wimbledon in the future. I just about held it together during her speech! I’m glad Naomi managed to get through hers – you could see how nervous she was.
All in all, a very enjoyable Australian Open. Normally I’m relieved at the end of the Australian swing as my sleep patterns are a mess but I actually feel a bit sad it’s over. After a shaky start where I woke up at 4am on the first day, it’s not been too bad! The Eurosport Player has been fantastic for catching up at normal hours and I feel like I’ve managed to watch back all the best matches of the tournament.
The tennis now moves onto St.Petersburg and Hua Hin, the former with a sensational draw. I doubt I’ll be blogging much over the next few weeks although I hope to watch some tennis. I’m gearing up for the big move as I am moving to my new house in two weeks time. There will be a lot of packing, cleaning and clearing out all my clutter!
Thanks for all the comments – it’s been a fun one! 🙂