With Petra Kvitova already into the final, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova battled it out to see who would meet the eight seed for not only the Australian Open title but also world number one. Pliskova started flat, only to turn it around in set two. However, it was Osaka who booked a place in the final with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory, her second consecutive Grand Slam final.
Power And Pressure
Pliskova was struggling on serve early on, double-faulting for an early break point before saving it. The struggles would carry on into the next game where Osaka hit back-to-back backhand winners down the line to get the first break of the match.
The world number four is known for her return positioning, standing right on or inside the baseline. The pressure of an attacking returner put Pliskova at odds with her serve with her speed noticeably dropping from her victory over Serena compared to tonight.
A double-fault by the Czech put Osaka up a double break, and Osaka had no problem closing out the opening set, 6-2, in 32 minutes.
Back Into It
Osaka flew out of the gates early going up 0-30 then breaking the Pliskova serve for a third time. A rare miss from the world number four put the Czech at double break point, and a backhand wide leveled the set at 1-1.
Facing triple break point, Pliskova delivered a fine comeback to hold serve. A key 30-all point in the ninth game saw Osaka miss a routine forehand which led to a nervy last game of the set. A couple of unforced errors put her behind, and Pliskova would roar after stealing the second set 6-4.
One And Two In Sight
Pliskova was beginning to hold with more ease and was consistently putting Osaka under pressure in her service games. Three break points faced, the US Open champion played even more aggressively, hitting two winners just to keep it at 1-1.
Osaka all of a sudden put the misses of before out of her head which led to her best return game of the match. A trademark backhand down the line winner put her at 0-30 and followed that up with a forehand winner; she would move 2-1 ahead.
The Japanese number one continued her immaculate serving after that tough first game to move within two games of the match. Pliskova was doing her best to keep scoreboard pressure on Osaka but was still down the break.
Pliskova knew she needed to break sooner rather than later or her Australian Open run would end in the semifinals. She had her first break point since the second game, but Osaka continued with her clutch serving for 5-3.
All the pressure was firmly on Osaka who was serving for the match at 5-4. At 30-all, the Japanese delivered an ace, and that's exactly how she closed it out too. There was a bit of air taken out of the room with a challenge, but Osaka's ace just clipped the line which put her into a second consecutive Grand Slam final.