Naomi Osaka's big chance to match epic Margaret Court feat

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, Naomi Osaka and Margaret Court.
Naomi Osaka has a chance to become the first woman since Margaret Court in 1962 to win her first four grand slam finals. Pic: Getty

Naomi Osaka once again ended Serena Williams' quest to match Margaret Court's grand slam singles record, now the Japanese superstar has her own shot at emulating the Aussie tennis great.

The World No.3 - who famously beat Williams in the 2018 US Open final - stopped the American's quest for a 24th grand slam title in its tracks after a comprehensive straight sets win in their semi-final on Thursday.

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Osaka booked her place in Saturday's decider against another American Jennifer Brady, with a clinical 6-3 6-4 victory over Williams that many observers viewed as a changing of the guard.

While Osaka is still a considerable way off the grand slam records of both Williams and Court, the 23-year-old has an opportunity on Saturday to match a stunning 59-year record held by the Aussie great.

Osaka is bidding to become the first woman since Court in 1962 to win her first four major finals, having prevailed at the US Open in 2018 and 2020, as well as the Australian Open in 2019.

It would be a stunning achievement that not even Williams herself has managed, although the American did win three of her first four major finals, before adding 20 more for good measure.

Osaka admits that at times it feels like the Williams and Court records "can't be broken", but the Japanese star is determined to keep writing new chapters in the tennis history books.

"I feel like I'm chasing records that can't be broken no matter how hard I try. It's the human trait of not being satisfied," the 23-year-old said.

"When I was younger, I guess like two years ago or something, I felt like my goal was to make history, to like somehow at least have one thing that I was able to do.

"I wanted to be the first Japanese person to win a slam. That was my goal. Then there was more things to do.

"So, for me right now, of course it's nice to see your name on a trophy or your name on a wall. But I think bigger than that."

With Williams turning 40 this year and Osaka really only beginning, there was a sense of the baton being passed in Thursday's semi-final showdown.

Once intimidated by her childhood idol, Osaka has now beaten Williams in four of their five meetings.

"The thing that I'm most proud of is how mentally strong I've become," the once temperamental talent said.

"I used to be really up and down. I had a lot of doubts in myself."

Brady challenge looms for Osaka

But the changing of the guard can only be truly complete if Osaka backs up against Brady, five months after the power-packed world No.3 denied the 25-year-old in a US Open semi-final classic in New York.

The gruelling three-setter was dubbed the match of the year and Osaka needs no reminding how dangerous Brady can be.

"It was just super high quality throughout. It's definitely going to be really tough," Osaka said.

The respect is mutual.

"I don't think there is anyone that I would compare her to that I have played, not that I can think of," Brady said of the challenge she faces in her first grand slam final.

"She just puts a lot of pressure on you to serve well because she's holding serve in, like, 45 seconds.

Seen here, Jennifer Brady and Naomi Osaka in action at the 2021 Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka knows it will be a tough match against Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open final. Pic: Getty

"She's serving well. She's coming at you with a lot of power, so it also puts a lot of pressure on you to be aggressive and try to get the first strike.

"Otherwise you're the one running, and I don't want to be running."

Just making the title match is a feat in itself for Brady, after the world No.24 was among 51 players in the Open singles draws forced into a fortnight of hard hotel quarantine upon arrival in Melbourne.

"Even before quarantine, I didn't think I would be where I am right now," she said.

Already guaranteed a rise to a career-high No.13 in the world, Brady will soar to the cusp of the top 10 with Open glory.

Osaka will jump to No.2 behind Ash Barty if she wins, having already confirmed her credentials as clearly the biggest threat to the Australian's top spot.

with AAP

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