Naomi Osaka’s stunning rise continued as she overcame a dramatic second-set wobble to beat Petra Kvitova in a magnificent Australian Open women’s singles final, securing her second successive grand slam title and the WTA’s number-one ranking.
Osaka had three championship points as Kvitova served at 3-5, 0-40 in set two, but the Japanese was pegged back in sensational fashion inside Rod Laver Arena.
However, having appeared increasingly emotional as her rival reeled off four successive games to force a decider, Osaka dug deep to regain the upper hand and eventually triumphed 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 in a truly captivating contest.
The 21-year-old saw her maiden slam victory, at last year’s US Open, overshadowed by Serena Williams’ extraordinary row with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, with boos from the crowd leaving Osaka in tears during the post-match presentation.
Yet there was nothing to dampen Osaka’s celebrations on this occasion, after she extended her winning streak at the highest level to 14 matches and became the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to follow up her first slam success by winning the next major. The new world number one’s status as the brightest young star in tennis can be in no doubt.
Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion of 2011 and 2014, had been looking to secure a fairytale win, just over two years on from sustaining career-threatening injuries to her left hand in a knife attack at her home.
The Czech had not dropped a set at Melbourne Park prior to facing Osaka and boasted a fantastic record in finals, but she was denied on this occasion despite showing tremendous character.
. @Naomi_Osaka_ is the Australian Open 2019 champion
She def. Petra Kvitova 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4. pic.twitter.com/XU0Of8Unzi
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2019
Eight break points were spurned – five for Kvitova and three for Osaka – in a high-quality first set that was ultimately decided in a tie-break.
Osaka, who was the world number 72 at this tournament 12 months ago, had struggled to read Kvitova’s serve early on, but soon gained the upper hand and looked to be winning a battle of the forehands as she forged ahead.
When the youngster moved a break up in set two, having been 2-0 down, a straight-sets victory appeared likely.
However, a dramatic shift in momentum followed as Kvitova fought back from 0-40 down when serving to stay in the match and then capitalised on the increasingly erratic form of her stunned rival, who could not hide her frustration.
Kvitova also took the opening game of the third set, but Osaka somehow regained her composure under huge pressure, when so many would surely have crumbled.
A series of eye-catching winners helped Osaka again move to the brink of victory and she was not to be denied for a second time, sealing the win with a hold to 15.
Naomi Osaka  bt Petra Kvitova  7-6 [7-2] 5-7 6-4
Osaka – 33/33
Kvitova – 33/39
Osaka – 9/4
Kvitova – 5/4
BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 3/14
Kvitova – 3/10
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Osaka – 62
Kvitova – 64
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Osaka – 76/45
Kvitova – 71/47
Osaka – 116
Kvitova – 112