Naomi Osaka of Japan displayed a feeling of self-accomplishment after defeating Czech Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-4 in a gruelling final to win the Australian Open in a three-set thriller that also shot her to the first position in world women tennis ranking.
In celebration of her historic victory, Osaka fell to one knee, head bowed, as she acknowledged and savoured the thunderous cheers from the Melbourne Park crowd.
Her jubilation was a marked contrast to her tearful display as the crowd around Flushing Meadows, venue of US Open displayed some empathy with defeated finalist Serena Williams’ tirade at the umpire.
“I felt like I was in a state of shock through the entire trophy presentation,” the 21-year-old said.
Osaka, who is the current US Open champion won the game in a 2 hours 27minutes to claim back-to-back Grand Slams and become the first Asian, male or female, to hold the top spot. She is also 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 latest victory confirms her status as the leading light of tennis’ new generation.
However, it was like a dream down the drain for Osaka when she failed to convert three championship points leading 5-3 in the second set as the experienced Kvitova forced a deciding set before Osaka finally edged ahead with a decisive break early in the third. 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.”