Osaka wins second Australian Open title

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After nearly exiting less than a week ago, Naomi Osaka has stormed to a second Australian Open title and fourth Grand Slam success by downing Jennifer Brady in Saturday’s women’s singles final.

Osaka brandished her devastating power game — but mixed in defence at a key moment — to defeat Brady 6-4 6-3.

Osaka broke into a huge smile when the contest ended in one hour 17 minutes, prior to the players exchanging a hug at the net.

The world No.3 cemented her status as the top hard-court player in the world. Osaka extended her winning streak to 21 — all on hard courts — a spell that included claiming the US Open last September.

Osaka and Brady met in New York, producing a tremendous, hard-hitting semifinal affair in the American’s big breakthrough.

Osaka got the better of it again at Rod Laver Arena to foil Brady’s bid to become the second straight US women’s winner at Melbourne Park who contested her maiden Grand Slam final — after Sofia Kenin.

The end of the opening set really decided the outcome. Osaka hung on at 4-4 then, aided by her countering, broke as Brady relinquished a 40-15 advantage.

The Japanese star subsequently surged while Brady, the world No.24, understandably sagged.

Both players struggled with their first-serve percentage, though Osaka shaded matters on first-serve and second-serve points tallied while hitting one more winner and seven fewer unforced errors.

Osaka has often said how much she loves the big occasion and her record in Grand Slam finals suggests as much, now a perfect 4-0.

This final was a fairly routine affair, unlike her three others.

Osaka overcame the disappointment of not converting three match points in a second set to beat Petra Kvitova in 2019 in Melbourne.

It all could have been so different this fortnight, since Osaka stood on the verge of departing in the fourth round.

She saved two match points against last year’s finalist, Garbine Muguruza, before soaring to another level. Wins over the tricky Su-Wei Hsieh and Serena Williams followed.

Osaka joined Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Li Na in triumphing at the Australian Open in the last decade after saving match points.

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