Berlin (dpa) – Japan’s Naomi Osaka has won the Australian Open for a second time with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over American Jennifer Brady.
The 23-year-old third-seed Osaka now has four grand slam titles with Melbourne crowns from 2019 and 2021 joining her US Open triumphs in 2018 and 2020. She maintained her record of never having lost at a major from the quarter-final stage onwards.
Brady, 25, ran to her maiden grand slam final as 22nd seed despite spending two weeks in hard coronavirus quarantine in the run-up to the event.
Osaka saved a break point in the ninth game before capitalizing on Brady going long and then netting on her next serve to claim the crucial first set.
Improving after a slow start in tricky windy conditions, Osaka raced to 4-0 in the second set and though Brady pulled a break back, Osaka served out to claim the win in front of a reduced 7,500 crowd amid global pandemic.
“I didn’t play my last grand slam with fans, so just to have this energy, it really means a lot,” Osaka said on court.
“Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms towards us. For sure I feel like playing a grand slam right now is a super privilege and it’s something I won’t take for granted, so thank you for this opportunity.”
Osaka is the first woman to begin her career going four from four in grand slam finals since since Monica Seles in the early 1990s. And her tally is now just one short of the likes of Martina Hingis and Maria and Sharapova on five.
It was rarely in doubt and looked like it would be simpler when Brady’s serve collapased in game four with a second double fault handing Osaka the first break.
But Brady broke back immediately and enjoyed her strongest spell of the game with a big hold in game eight and before she pressured Osaka’s serve by dashing to chase down a drop shot and deliver a perfect lob for break point.
Osaka saw off the danger with a magnificent forehand onto the line, however, and found the stripe again a game later to bring up set point.
Brady set up the chance to save herself with a big serve but netted a potentially simple winner and never fully recovered.
Nonetheless she can look back on a fantastic run in Melbourne which will take her into the world’s top 20 next week despite being unable to train before the event due to quarantine rules.
Brady was one of those where a coronavirus case was recorded on her flight into the country and she was restricted to her room for 15 days. Of more than 50 singles players in this situation, only she made it beyond round three.
“I was in the quarantine and they did everything possible for me to make it as comfortable as possible,” she said.
“I was able to do everything I could in the room and I appreciate everything that they did for me while I was there, so thank you.”
Osaka held her first serves in the second set while adding two breaks, the second thanks to three unforced errors, to move within touching distance of victory.
Brady reclaimed one break but Osaka was not threatened again and two long returns in succession ended the outsider’s hopes of an upset.
The men’s final between world number one and title holder Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev is on Sunday.