Australian Open women’s final preview: Jennifer Brady v Naomi Osaka
On Saturday evening in Melbourne, Jennifer Brady and Naomi Osaka will battle it out for the Australian Open women’s singles title. Osaka is a perfect 3-0 in Grand Slam finals, whilst Brady will be playing on the second Saturday for the first time in her career.
Jennifer Brady (22) v Naomi Osaka (3)
Jennifer Brady’s route to the semi-finals:
R1: d. Aliona Bolsova, 6-1 6-3
R2: d. Madison Brengle, 6-1 6-2
R3: d. Kaja Juvan, 6-1 6-3
R4: d. Donna Vekic (28), 6-1 7-5
QF: d. Jessica Pegula, 4-6 6-2 6-1
SF: d. Karolina Muchova (25), 6-4 3-6 6-4
Osaka’s route to the semi-finals:
R1: d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-2
R2: d. Caroline Garcia, 6-2 6-3
R3: d. Ons Jabeur (27), 6-3 6-2
R4: d. Garbine Muguruza (14), 4-6 6-4 7-5
QF: d. Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-2 6-2
SF: d. Serena Williams (10), 6-3 6-4
Brady, the 22nd seed, has reached the final without having to face an opponent ranked higher than herself. It was plain sailing for the American through the first four rounds but she was pushed in her quarter and semi-final matches against Jessica Pegula and Karolina Muchova respectively. Both women took a set from Brady, but the 25-year-old held her nerve to come out a worthy winner on both occasions.
The semi-final win against Muchova was especially close. When Brady was on the brink of victory, leading 5-4 40-15 in the third set, things began to unravel ever so slightly. There was much to-ing and fro-ing between break points and match points, but at the fifth time of asking Brady claimed the win, courtesy of a Muchova forehand error.
On paper, Osaka has had by far the tougher draw, and yet she also now finds herself in the position of being able to win the tournament without facing any players ranked inside the world top ten (Serena Williams is currently ranked 11th but was the 10th seed in Australia due to Kiki Bertens’ absence).
Still, she drew one of the toughest first-round opponents possible in 39th ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and there was only a slight improvement in fortune having to face world No 43 Caroline Garcia in round two. Both were dispatched with ease, as was the rising Tunisian, Ons Jabeur, in the next round.
Osaka’s toughest test came in the fourth-round against Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard, runner-up in Melbourne last year, almost caused the upset but let two match points slip away and Osaka found some of her best tennis just when she needed it most to sneak through to the quarter0finals, where she faced a far easier task against the world’s top ranked doubles player, Hsieh Su-Wei.
Then came perhaps the most highly anticipated match of the tournament; Osaka v Williams. Both players had come into the match in fine form but, unfortunately, the match did not quite live up to the hype, with neither woman playing at levels they had shown in previous rounds. Both hit below 50% of their first serves into play, and Serena hit 24 unforced errors to just 12 winners. Osaka, did what she had to do, however, and converted all four of her break point opportunities to move on to the final.
Brady and Osaka have played each other twice on tour, with Osaka winning both times. Their most recent match was in the semi-final of the 2020 US Open, in what was one of the best matches of the tournament. The contest finished 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3 to Osaka, there were only two breaks of serve throughout, and the pair hit 35 winners apiece.
In spite of how close that match was, Osaka is a heavy favourite heading into Saturday’s final. The 23-year-old has already won three Grand Slam titles, all on hardcourts, and she is yet to lose a major final. Brady, on the other hand, has only ever played in one other tour level final, winning in Lexington last summer. Osaka is the more complete, more experienced player at this level, and the completion of a second US-AO double is the most likely outcome.
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