Naomi Osaka cemented her place as the best hard court player on the WTA Tour by winning a second Australian Open title on Saturday.
The Japanese beat 22nd seed Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 to win a fourth Major title, having won the US Open title in 2018 and 2020 and the title here in 2019.
Third-seeded Osaka was the pre-event favourite and dropped just one set throughout the tournament, saving two match points in a thrilling fourth round contest against two-time Major winner Garbine Muguruza.
She now draws level with players such as Kim Clijsters, Hana Mandlikova and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario on four Major titles, and will equal Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis if she wins a fifth.
The world number three is only the third person in the Open Era to have won their first four Major finals, following in the footsteps of Monica Seles and Roger Federer.
Though the Japanese, who rises to second in the rankings on Monday, never looked in too much trouble during the hour and 17 minute contest it was undoubtedly a spirited display from Brady.
The American was competing in just her second WTA final and by no means disgraced herself, though a few unforced errors on key points and inexperience may have cost her.
She will reach a career high of 13th on the WTA rankings next week and will fancy her chances of breaking into the top ten in 2021, having been ranked outside the top 40 just six months ago.
The final was held in front of a 50% capacity crowd on the Rod Laver Arena due to ongoing Covid-19 protocols, and Osaka expressed her gratitude to the fans in attendance in her winner’s speech.
She said: “Thank you for coming and watching. To have this energy really means a lot. Thank you so much.
“Thank you for opening your hearts and arms towards us. I feel like playing a Grand Slam right now is a privilege, and thank you for this opportunity.”
Afterwards, there was disappointment for the home crowd as the Australian pairing of Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden lost in the Mixed Doubles final.
Sixth seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Rajeev Ram prevailed 6-1, 6-4 against the wildcards, having previously won the title together in 2019.
Check out all of SWL’s Australian Open coverage here.
Featured image credit: pbepmaop98 via CreativeCommons 2.0 licence