Naomi Osaka has seized the moment to overcome the inspirational Petra Kvitova and win her second grand slam title in a thrilling Australian Open women’s final on Saturday night.
In a contest that was dramatic for all the right reasons, the 21-year-old put aside championship nerves and the threat of fading away to steel herself for a 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 win in two hours and 27 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
UNPRECEDENTED: Naomi Osaka’s incredible 12-month rise to world No.1
SPINE-TINGLING: Petra Kvitova’s inspiring runners-up speech
Osaka shed tears on the court after a double blow in the second set when she first threw away three match points on Kvitova’s serve then failed to serve out the match.
The victory, five months after her maiden major at the US Open was overshadowed, will elevate the Japanese star to the world No.1 ranking for the first time.
In addition to becoming the first Asian male or female to hold the top ranking, Osaka has also become the first woman to win successive grand slams since Serena Williams won four in a row across 2014 and 2015.
For Kvitova, who will rise to No.2 in the rankings, the defeat is a sobering result that in no way overshadows her astonishing comeback.
The heartwarming run came little more than two years after a violent attack in her home threatened her career and one year after a first-round exit in Melbourne filled her with doubt.
“Huge congrats to you, Petra,” Osaka said.
“I’ve always wanted to play you. Honestly I wouldn’t have wanted this to be our first match.
“You’re really amazing and I’m really honoured to play you in the final of a grand slam.”