MELBOURNE, Australia– As Naomi Osaka strode through the Champion’s Walk bring about the court for the Australian Open final– her headphones was on her ears, with a racket bag strapped to her back. She then reached out her left hand to touch a panel noted with her name and also the year of her previous title there.
Not a big deal, she explained. Just a bit of superstition. Less than 10 minutes later, she began the match versus Jennifer Brady. Then, less than 1 1/2 hours later on, Osaka won the last point, since that’s what she does when the risks are the best on her sport’s greatest stages.
Osaka boosted to 4-0 in Grand Slam finals by getting six consecutive games to pull away in what originally was a tight competition, beating Brady 6-4, 6-3 at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“Both players looked nervous in the early going, missing first serves and racking up roughly two unforced errors for every winner. With Osaka serving at 4-4 in the first set, Brady chipped away at Osaka’s fortress until she had opened a sliver of daylight at 30-40.
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.””Source