During an exhilarating in Melbourne, Australia, Naomi Osaka from Japan defeated Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 in three sets to win the Australian Open title and become a back-to-back Grand Slam champion.
Osaka won a back-and-forth three-set thriller down under. She won the first set in a tiebreaker. She dropped the second set, despite having Kvitova on the ropes with three consecutive championship points. Despite losing the second set, Osaka hunkered down to win the third and final set 6-4 to clinch the victory.
Several months earlier, Osaka won her first Grand Slam in controversial fashion at the US Open at Flushing Meadows, New York. Osaka defeated Serena Williams in the finals when the chair umpire issued Williams a game penalty for arguing calls.
With the victory at the Australian Open, Osaka earned the #1 ranking in the WTA as the top-ranked woman in tennis. At the age of 21, Osaka became the youngest #1 player since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010. Osaka also became the first Japanese player to ascend to the #1 ranking.
“It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, but this feels good,” Osaka said.
The fact that Petra Kvitova is even playing competitive tennis today is a remarkable feat, let alone she nearly won a Grand Slam title. In December 2016, Kvitova suffered severe injuries to her left hand when she fended off a home invasion in Prague, Czech Republic.
A street person followed her home and forced entry. She fought the assailant off, but suffered serious gashes in her hand. Doctors did what they could to patch her up and save her fingers, but her career was in doubt. Despite the traumatic setback, Kvitova did not back down from her desire to return to the tennis court.
After missing most of the 2017 season, she resumed playing on the international circuit with an appearance at the French Open. Since then, she’s won five titles and found herself in the finals against the auspicious newcomer, Osaka. Kvitova played in her first Grand Slam since winning Wimbledon in 2014.
“I wanted to win and have the trophy, but I think I already won two years ago,” said Kvitova. “I feel great. I’m playing great tennis. I don’t think that I could really imagine to be this kind of player again.”
Kvitova’s mental toughness was on full display at the Australian Open. Down to three championship points in the second set, Kvitova dug in. She rallied from down 5-3 to win the second set 7-5. Osaka battled back to win the third set and the match.
With her epic run in Melbourne, Kvitova is now ranked #2.
In September on 2014, Osaka found herself in the finals of the US Open against Serena Williams. The greatest female tennis player in the world got into a dispute with the umpire, who decided to penalize Williams point and game penalties. As a result, Osaka won the US Open.
Osaka followed up her remarkable run with another appearance in the finals in Melbourne, Australia. She proved she wasn’t a fluke with back-to-back Grand Slam titles.
Wimbledon in London and the French Open in Paris are the next two Grand Slam events.