Osaka dreaming big on Open final eve

·3-min read

Driven by history and chasing impossible dreams, there is more than a little of Serena Williams in Naomi Osaka as the Japanese superstar looks to etch her own name in the tennis record books on Saturday night.

After thwarting Williams' latest quest to equal Margaret Court's all-time grand slam titles record in the semi-finals, Osaka will play the much less celebrated American Jennifer Brady for the trophy at Melbourne Park.

With a steely mindset that "people don't remember the runners-up", Osaka is bidding to become the first woman since Court in 1962 to win her first four major finals.

Williams could "only" win three of her first four before adding a further 20 in a career unparalleled in the 53-year open era.

It seems beyond comprehension that anyone will ever match the numbers of Court and Williams - but that won't stop Osaka trying.

"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 now 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."

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.

"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.