Australian Open: It's a super privilege - Osaka revels in latest slam triumph

By Sports Desk February 20, 2021

An elated Naomi Osaka described playing a grand slam amid the health pandemic as a "super privilege" after outclassing Jennifer Brady to win the Australian Open for a second time.

The Japanese third seed completed a 6-4 6-3 triumph on Rod Laver Arena to become the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka's latest two triumphs in New York and now Melbourne have come amid the coronavirus pandemic, although fans were in attendance for this victory.

The 23-year-old paid tribute to her beaten opponent, who she also defeated at Flushing Meadows, while revelling in another slam success.

"We played in the semis at the US Open a couple of months ago. I told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a problem, and I was right," Osaka said at the post-match presentation.

"My team is like my family so I'm sure you guys will have a lot of adventures together. I know your friends and your family are very proud of you and we're going to play a lot more matches, so get used to that!

"It feels really incredible for me. Just to have this energy [from fans], it really means a lot. Thank you so much for coming.

"Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms towards us. Playing a grand slam right now is a super privilege and I don't take this for granted."

Brady, seeded 22nd, was playing in the first slam final of her career against Osaka, and labelled the former world number one an "inspiration" to every player on the tour.

"Firstly I'd like to congratulate Naomi. She's such an inspiration to us all and what she's doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls at home are watching are inspired by what she's doing," Brady said.

"I'd like to congratulate her team. You're obviously doing something special and she's getting better every day.

"I'd like to say thanks to my team. Without you guys I wouldn't be standing here tonight. Thank you for everything you've done for me and let's keep going for more.

"Mom, I know you're watching right now in front of the TV, probably crying, so... it was special to play in front of fans. Tonight, it wasn't meant to be, but hopefully there's many more."

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    Keys overcame Czech fourth seed Krejcikova 6-3 6-2 in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.

    After a hard-fought 50-minute first set, Keys handled the heat the better of the two, closing out a deserved victory.

    The win booked Keys a first major semi-final since the 2018 US Open and fifth of her career, with either Ash Barty or Jessica Pegula awaiting her.

    After claiming just 11 match victories in 2021, Keys is on a 10-match winning streak, although she was challenged by Krejcikova, particularly early on.

    A pair of break points went begging for Keys in the second game before she dug herself out of a 15-40 hole to hold for 2-1.

    Keys held after a gruelling 18-point fifth game, one which looked set to be hugely important, after saving four break points.

    Another lengthy game followed as opportunities, this time for Keys, came and went before Krejcikova sent a forehand wide to hand the American a 4-2 lead.

    Krejcikova took a medical timeout at 2-5, but there was no stopping Keys taking the first set in 50 minutes.

    The unforced errors continued to come from Krejcikova and a tame backhand into the net handed Keys a break in the opening game of the second set.

    Looking increasingly weary, Krejcikova was broken to love in the third game, although the French Open champion did get one of those breaks back immediately.

    Krejcikova continued to fight, but Keys powered away, breaking for 5-2 on her way to the last four.

     

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    Keys – 27/21
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    The world number 115 edged a topsy-turvy battle 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-7) on Margaret Court Arena to set up a meeting with Iga Swiatek in the final eight.

    With Monday's impressive comeback win, Kanepi has now completed a clean sweep of reaching the quarter-finals of all four majors, making her the 15th active player to do so.

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    "I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve," said the 36-year-old, who finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors.

    "It was really difficult to come back. I don't know how I managed to do it.

    "I was really tight. My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn't make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure.
     
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    "The Australian Open was the only quarter-final grand slam I was missing. Given my age, I didn't actually believe I was going to do it. I'm really happy."

    After sealing a 14th career victory over a top-10 opponent, with her second win in a row against Sabalenka, Kanepi is now relishing Wednesday's battle with Swiatek.

    That will pit the youngest and oldest remaining players left in the draw against each other, with 20-year-old Swiatek having earlier defeated Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

    "I haven't watched her, I never played her, and I don't know how her ball feels, so we'll see when I play her," Kanepi said of her next opponent. "What I expect is to play good."

    Kanepi is one of six Australian Open quarter-final debutants remaining, with top seed Ash Barty and Madison Keys the only two to have previously reached this stage.

  • Australian Open: Wound-up Medvedev through after 'crazy' fourth set Australian Open: Wound-up Medvedev through after 'crazy' fourth set

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    Medvedev beat Cressy 6-2 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 on Monday to ensure his place in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

    The second seed is the fifth Russian man in the Open Era to reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne on multiple occasions, joining Yevgeny Kafelnikov (five), Nikolay Davydenko (four), Aleksandar Metreveli and Marat Safin (both three).

    Medvedev had it far from easy against the world number 70, who reached the final of the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month, losing to Rafael Nadal, and the match lasted three hours and 30 minutes on Margaret Court Arena.

    Indeed, Medvedev was extremely tense in the fourth and what proved to be final set, as he squandered eight chances to break before finally doing so to nudge himself into a 6-5 lead. 

    His temper frayed at 2-2, however, with Medvedev shouting: "It's simply unbelievable how lucky he is. I've never seen anything like this in my life."

    Medvedev eventually served out the win, taking the first match point on offer, but the US Open champion knew he had been in a battle.

    "He really did [serve and volley] well," Medvedev said. "First set I had control, but the second set I didn't manage to break him but won the tie-break and just wanted to continue this way.

    "When I lost the third [set] and when I had eight break points in the fourth set, I was like, come on. Some of them I could have won, but he played well, but on the last one I played well.

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    Another annoyance for Medvedev was that he was again scheduled to play on Margaret Court Arena, rather than the crown jewel at Melbourne Park, Rod Laver Arena.

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    Next up for Medvedev is a quarter-final tie against ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

    Medvedev has defeated the 21-year-old Canadian in all three of their previous meetings on the ATP Tour, including in his successful run to US Open glory last year, and in the ATP Cup earlier this month.

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