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Four for 4: Osaka wins Australians, stays good within the slam ultimate | Oklahoma Information

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – As Naomi Osaka walked the Champion’s Walk to the court for the Australian Open final – headphones to her ears, racket bag strapped to her back – she reached out her left hand to point to a board marked with it type the name and year of your previous title there.

No big deal, she explained. Just a little bit of superstition. Less than 10 minutes later, she started the match against Jennifer Brady. And less than an hour and a half later, Osaka won the last point, because that’s exactly what it does when the stakes are at its highest on the biggest stages of its sport.

Osaka improved to 4-0 in the Grand Slam final by winning six games in a row to prevail 6-4, 6-3 in an initially tight competition against Brady on Saturday at Melbourne Park.

“You’re not going to a final to finish second. For me, every opportunity to play a slam is an opportunity to win a slam, ”said the 23-year-old Osaka, who will move up to second place in the WTA rankings. “So I think maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself, but honestly it’s working in my favor right now.”

For sure is.

With serves that hit 197 mph and produced six aces, and returns that added six breaks, Osaka became the first woman to win her first four major finals since Monica Seles did so 30 years ago.

It’s part of Osaka’s 12-0 record in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals in the majors.

“She plays so aggressively that she puts so much pressure on you to perform well,” said Brady, a 25-year-old from Pennsylvania who played UCLA college tennis and was entering a slam final for the first time . “And not every tennis player can do that.”

Osaka, the AP Athlete of the Year 2020, also had a 21-match winning streak last season and included her championship at last year’s US Open. She also won the US Open in 2018 and the Australian Open in 2019.

“What I’ve learned on and off the pitch is that it’s okay not to be sure. To me, I feel like I’ve always forced myself to be “strong” or whatever. I think if you feel wrong, it’s okay to feel wrong, ”Osaka said. “But you have to kind of go inside yourself and find things out in a way.”

Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3 years old. She was an attorney for black victims of racism and police violence and said she would refuse to play a match at a tournament last year to put the issue in the spotlight.

“She’s a great inspiration to all of us and what she does for the game is amazing when it comes to bringing the sport to market,” said Brady, who was ranked 22nd. “I hope that young girls at home will watch and be inspired by what she is doing.”

Brady had to go through a tough quarantine for 15 days when she arrived in Australia in January because someone on her flight tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.

Playing Osaka was a huge competitive boost during this tournament for Brady, who hadn’t faced anyone in the top 25 or anyone who had previously appeared in a Grand Slam semi-final.

Brady’s only fourth major appearance was at the US Open in September when she lost to Osaka in three straight sets.

This time, on a breezy and cooler evening with a temperature below 20 degrees Celsius, she couldn’t push the champion as hard as lately.

Participation was announced at 7,381 a.m. Spectators were allowed to return after being banned during a COVID-19 lockdown at the beginning of the tournament.

“I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans,” said Osaka. “Just to have that energy, it really means a lot.”

The finale spun on 4-all as Brady pitched a praise winner on the run, which she underscored by waving her arms to demand more noise from the crowd. That brought a breakpoint – convert that and it would serve for the opening sentence.

But Osaka wiped out the chance with a cross-court forehand winner and two mistakes by Brady made it 5-4. Osaka then dropped out to snag the set, aided by Brady’s double fault and a web-like forehand on a short ball to end it.

“Happened maybe one in ten times,” said Brady of the mistake, “or hopefully less.”

That was part of the run that put Osaka 4-0 ahead in the second set, and she was on the way.

Now only two active women have major trophies: Serena Williams at 23 and her sister Venus at seven.

Osaka defeated Serena Williams – a player she calls her idol – in the semi-finals on Thursday.

And as much as Osaka makes it clear that it wants to expand its Grand Slam collection further, there are bigger goals too.

“That will sound really strange, but I hope I play long enough to play a girl who said I was her favorite player or something,” said Osaka, who signed autographs for fans after her win. “For me this is the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. … This is how the sport progresses. “

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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