'Unbelievable' Osaka fact behind stunning Sharapova backflip

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Naomi Osaka's trainer says the Japanese star is on 'another level' than Maria Sharapova was. Pic: Getty
Naomi Osaka's trainer says the Japanese star is on 'another level' than Maria Sharapova was. Pic: Getty

Naomi Osaka is out to maintain her perfect record in grand slam singles finals when she takes on American Jennifer Brady in Saturday night's Australian Open decider.

The match represents the fourth major final of Osaka's burgeoning career, with the Japanese superstar winning all three of those previous finals.

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It represents a daunting challenge for surprise packet Brady, who has dropped just one set the whole tournament, during her three set thriller against Karolina Muchova in the semi-finals.

The challenge that Osaka poses is arguably unlike any other in women's tennis, however, with her trainer Yutaka Nakamura comparing the 23-year-old to a Formula One car.

Nakamura, who used to train five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, admits he was ready to walk away from the sport when he parted ways with the Russian.

However, the trainer says something very special about Osaka forced him to make an incredible backflip.

“Naomi is an unbelievable athlete,” Nakamura told Simon Briggs of the UK Telegraph. 

“She is explosive, agile, and that’s why I compare her to a Formula One car.

"People say that her 120mph serve (193km/h) and her forehand are her weapons, but I think her speed can be a weapon too.

“I worked with Maria Sharapova for eight years. Maria built her legacy on the court. But with Naomi, it’s just another level. As an athlete but also as an activist, she has a different voice and she has a different vibe.

“After Sharapova, I thought I had enough of travelling around the world and being with athletes one-on-one. I had dedicated my life to the tour, and I didn’t see how anyone could go above and beyond Sharapova. But when I started working with Naomi, I thought, ‘This is a different experience'.”

Osaka the hot favourite in the final

A second trophy at Melbourne Park would mean the 23-year-old from Japan has won half the majors she's contested since her first Slam title at the US Open final in 2018 - an infamous match forever remembered for Serena Williams's implosion.

Osaka's demolition of Williams in the semi-finals ended the 39-year-old's latest attempt to win a record-equalling 24th major, and reinforced the belief that the Japanese world number three heads a generation that is taking over from the American.

The quirky but increasingly confident Osaka has never lost after reaching the last eight of a grand slam, and is riding a 20-match winning streak that dates back a year.

"I have this mentality that people don't remember the runners-up," Osaka explained.

"I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that's where you sort of set yourself apart."

Pictured here, Jennifer Brady and Naomi Osaka in action at the Australian Open.
Jennifer Brady stands in the way of Naomi Osaka's fourth major trophy. Pic: Getty

Osaka is hot favourite against 22nd seed Brady, who is playing the first grand slam final of her career after serving 14 days' hard quarantine before the tournament, unlike other players who were allowed out of their hotel rooms to train.

Brady, 25, has not faced a higher-ranked player in her run to the final, helped by the exits of world number one Ash Barty and defending champion Sofia Kenin on her side of the draw.

"We grew up playing junior local tournaments in Florida," she said.

"I remember playing her, I was, like, 'Wow, she hits the ball huge. She's going to be good. She's got something special.'"

with agencies

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