American Jennifer Brady has sealed a stunning career first at the Australian Open after downing Karolina Muchova to book a spot in her first grand slam singles final.
In a match The Tennis Podcast described as the "most compelling game of the entire Australian Open", Brady overcame a dogged challenge from Muchova to win a thrilling semi-final showdown on Thursday evening.
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Brady ensured there would be an American in the final after Serena Williams fell in straight sets to Naomi Osaka earlier in the day.
The 22nd seed needed five match points before finally seeing off Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.
On a stifling afternoon in Melbourne, former college player Brady dug herself out of a mid-match hole to reach her first grand slam decider and a daunting title clash with former champion, Osaka.
Brady saw four match points slip through her fingers as she served it out nervously but finally celebrated the win when Muchova fired a forehand long.
The nerve-jangling contest left tennis fans scrambling for superlatives on social media.
100% true. that was one of the best games I’ve seen! such a brawl. so much emotion.
— cp (@vanishingcp) February 18, 2021
That match was awesome! Lots of variety, deserved to be the final. Tough for #Muchova, surely her time will come, but well done #Brady. Such tension at the end but she JUST about held it together. Well done both players 👊👏#AusOpen #AustralianOpen
— Simondo82 (@simondo82) February 18, 2021
Fantastic third set between Brady and Muchova. That last game was epic. Impressed by Muchova this whole tournament, played especially great under pressure.
— Alxalix (@GarinsForehand) February 18, 2021
The way Jennifer Brady turned me into a fan in the span of 3 matches is beyond me, but damn, good for her. She brought the drama this whole time. Love this.
— Juesha Rawr (@JueshaRawr) February 18, 2021
What an incredible finish by Jen Brady!
Osaka vs Brady in the US Open semis was easily one of best women's matches from last year.
I absolutely cannot wait for the #AusOpen final on Saturday. https://t.co/ejLqnjKzGn
— Jodee Storm Sullivan (@jstorm482) February 18, 2021
Amazing match! Two extraordinary women! Bravo Brady!! 🌟🏓🎾🙏
— sonia york-pryce (@muffinyp) February 18, 2021
Just a grandstand finish. Jennifer Brady, into the final. Repeat of a thrilling US Open semifinal between Brady and Osaka. #AusOpen
— Vinayakk (@vinayakkm) February 18, 2021
— Muriel (@muymuri_) February 18, 2021
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 18, 2021
American 'pretty excited' about maiden grand slam final
Brady was almost lost for words after the match when asked about the enormity of her achievement.
"I can't feel my legs. My legs are shaking, my heart is racing," Brady said after the match.
Brady won the first set but suffered a hiccup in the second, admitting that it took her time to find some consistent rhythm in the match.
"I was feeling a little strange today. I was super excited but at the same time I was pretty flat-footed," she added.
"My legs felt fresh but at the same time they weren't moving. I felt like I was stuck in mud
"I didn't really pick up my intensity until the beginning of the third set."
Brady made her slam breakthrough with a run to the last four at the US Open last summer before losing to Osaka in the semi-finals.
Curiously, the American's win sets up a rematch on Saturday with Osaka, who is chasing her fourth grand slam singles title.
“I’m obviously pretty excited to be in the finals. It’s an incredible achievement but I think it will be a really tough match," Brady said about the Osaka showdown.
"Obviously she’s won a few grand slams, we had a tough match at the US Open in the semi-finals. She even said it was one of her top-two matches, which was a little unfortunate for me.”
The open nature of the women’s game is highlighted by the fact Brady is the seventh woman to make her maiden slam final in the past nine tournaments.
Five of the other six went on to win the title, including Sofia Kenin in Melbourne last year and Iga Swiatek at the French Open in October.
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