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Osaka beats Kvitova to win Australian Open and become new world number one

The win means Osaka reaches the No 1 ranking spot.

Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts after defeating Petra Kvitova in Melbourne.
Japan's Naomi Osaka reacts after defeating Petra Kvitova in Melbourne.
Image: Mark Schiefelbein

JAPAN’S NAOMI OSAKA battled past Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-4 to win her first Australian Open crown Saturday and become the new world number one.

The fourth seed and US Open champion made it two Grand Slam titles in a row after a see-sawing two-hour and 27-minute match.

The hard-fought victory made Osaka the first Asian, male or female, to hold the world’s top ranking, taking over from Romania’s Simona Halep.

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.

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.

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 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.

© AFP 2019 

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