For the first time in four major finals, Naomi Osaka entered as the heavy favorite, facing off against American Jennifer Brady. Osaka survived a gauntlet to get to the final, which included saving match points in her fourth-round match against Garbine Muguruza.
Unbeaten in major quarters, semis, and finals leading up to the event, the world number three looked to add a fourth tally in the win column in major finals which would have made her the third-ever player to go unbeaten in her first four major finals (Monica Seles and Roger Federer).
A hotly-contested opening set then turned into a dominant display in set two as Osaka grabbed her fourth major title in as many attempts. She defeated 6-4, 6-3 and moved to world number two starting Monday.
Osaka Strikes Late To Take Opener
The immediate question the sprang to the mind of viewers and analysts alike was how would Brady deal with the nerves of her first major final. In her first major semifinal which also happened to be against Osaka at last year's US Open, her first-strike tennis definitely put people on notice that she can show up on the big stage.
What looked to be a comfortable service game at 40-0 up turned into a battle for the American to hold her opening service game. She held for 1-1 as nerves looked to be eased, but that clearly was not the case the next time she served. Two double faults coupled with two rally balls into the net gave Osaka the break at love and a 3-1 lead.
Even though she fell behind, the 22 seed continued to play her game and was rewarded with a break back. The Osaka backhand, which did so much damage throughout the tournament, looked flat in the early stages of this match.
A massive eighth game of the set saw Brady save break point and fight through three deuces to hold to stay in the set. The American finally had another look at break point, but Osaka capped off the rally hitting behind Brady to get it back to deuce before holding for 5-4.
Serving to stay in the set, Brady looked comfortable once again at 40-15. However, Osaka fought her way back and a missed short forehand right at the net gifted the opening set to the world number three.
Osaka Stands Firm To Claim Number Four
After a testy opening set, Osaka quickly took control of the second set. The Japanese number one forced the issue at hand of the American, continuing to power balls down the middle and force her opponent to go for more or remain in uncomfortable positions.
A double break to start the second set seemed to have signaled the end for Brady, but the American was not willing to back down despite the scoreline. Even with points for 5-0, Osaka could not capitalize on one of those chances as Brady's backhand down the line forced an error out of Osaka to give one of the breaks back.
The seventh game became of quite an importance now because if Brady broke, she would be right back in the set and the match. It got to 40-30 when the 22 seed went for it all with a forehand winner out wide but missed, putting Osaka a game away from the title.
Brady forced the Japanese to serve for the match and at the first time of asking, Osaka clinched the title as the American's return sailed long. With the crowd back at Melbourne Park, the crowd favorite waved and smiled, once again claiming the Australian Open title.