‘Shocked’ Naomi Osaka wins Australian Open over Petra Kvitova to become world No. 1

Japan's Naomi Osaka kisses her trophy after winning her Australian Open final match against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova. (Reuters)
Updated 26 January 2019
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‘Shocked’ Naomi Osaka wins Australian Open over Petra Kvitova to become world No. 1

  • Victory is Japanese world No. 1's second Grand Slam
  • Marks a consecutive Grand Slam win after winning 2018 US Open

MELBOURNE: New world No. 1 Naomi Osaka said she was “in a state of shock” on Saturday after holding her nerve to beat Petra Kvitova to win the Australian Open in a three-set thriller that also delivered her second Grand Slam title.
The Japanese fourth seed and US Open champion triumphed 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-4 in a 2hr 27min epic over the Czech eighth seed to claim back-to-back Grand Slams and become the first Asian, male or female, to hold the top spot.
The Japanese youngster fell to one knee in celebration, head bowed, as Melbourne Park erupted in thunderous cheers.
“I felt like I was in a state of shock through the entire trophy presentation,” the 21-year-old said.
A rattled Osaka almost blew her title hopes with one hand on the trophy when she failed to convert three championship points leading 5-3 in the second set.
The never-say-die Kvitova forced a deciding set before Osaka finally edged ahead with a decisive break early in the third.
“Of course I felt very disappointed and sad when I had three match points,” she said.
“I tried to tell myself there’s nothing I can do about it. Told myself I’m playing a final and need to keep fighting and couldn’t act immature and needed to keep fighting.”
Her jubilation was a marked contrast to Osaka’s maiden Slam win last year, when she tearfully hid her face as boos rang around Flushing Meadows in the wake of losing finalist Serena Williams’ tirade at the umpire.
This time, Osaka cried with joy and smiled as she became the youngest woman to win back-to-back majors since Martina Hingis in 1998 and the youngest number one since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
Her gutsy performance confirms her status as the leading light of tennis’ new generation.
Kvitova can console herself with a career-best performance at Melbourne Park, where she did not drop a set on her way to the final.
It was her first Grand Slam decider since a burglar slashed her racquet hand in a 2016 knife attack and the Czech has shown she is again a contender at the majors.
“Thank you for sticking with me even when we didn’t know if I would able to hold a racquet again,” Kvitova told her team, with her voice cracking.
“It’s crazy. I can hardly believe that I just played in a Grand Slam final again.”
Predictions of a slugfest between two of the game’s biggest hitters proved accurate as the pair went toe-to-toe in the first set.
They had never met before and Osaka initially struggled to unlock the lanky left-hander’s serve, while Kvitova at times could not handle her opponent’s powerful returns.
The Czech mixed up her game with drop shots and changes of pace but blew three break chances in a crunch sixth game in the first set.
Kvitova saved two set points to force a tie-break but Osaka ran away with it 7-2, taking the first set the Czech had conceded in the entire tournament.
Kvitova regrouped and kept her hopes alive with the first break of the match, going up 2-0 in the second.
Osaka was frustrated but did not panic, going back on level terms in the next game after benefiting from a Kvitova double fault and poorly hit drop shot.
The Japanese star broke again to take control as Kvitova’s error rate climbed, bringing up three championship points. But the Czech saved all of them, forcing Osaka to serve for the title.
Nerves took hold as Osaka conceded a break to make it 5-5, smashing a ball into the ground and putting her hands over her ears.
The Czech broke again to seize momentum with her fourth straight game, claiming the set as Osaka left the court with a towel draped over her head.
Osaka regained her cool and clipped a clean backhand winner to take a break point in the third game of the decider, going on to see off a Kvitova break opportunity, her mental demons put to bed.
Kvitova would not surrender, saving three break points before again forcing Osaka to serve it out, but the Japanese champion managed it on the second attempt for a famous victory.


Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019
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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.