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Naomi Osaka reaches Australian Open final, closes in on world No. 1

24 January 2019 14:09 672
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Naomi Osaka reaches Australian Open final, closes in on world No. 1

MELBOURNE. KAZINFORM U.S. Open women's champion Naomi Osaka defeated Karolina Pliskova Thursday to book a spot in the Australian Open final, where she can become the first Japanese world No. 1 tennis player if she wins her second straight Grand Slam title.

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Osaka extended her streak of winning matches after taking the first set to 59. She rallied to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory against the eighth-ranked Czech at Rod Laver Arena to set up a women's singles final against Pliskova's compatriot Petra Kvitova, Kyodo News reports.

The 21-year-old Osaka reached the final of a major for the second time in her career, and is the only Japanese player to advance to the title match of the season's first Grand Slam.

"I kind of expected (a difficult match) because I played her and she has beat me more than I beat her, so I was expecting a really hard battle," Osaka said.

Osaka had only beaten Pliskova, who was seeking her first major championship, once in their three previous meetings. She had a 10-match win streak halted by the Czech in the 2018 Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo last September following her maiden Grand Slam win in New York.

"I just told myself to regroup in the third set, and no matter what just try as hard as I can, and I managed to win," Osaka said.

The Japanese fourth seed and current world No. 4 fired 16 winners and broke Pliskova twice in the first set, taking advantage of the Czech's three double faults, including on game point that lifted Osaka to a 5-2 lead. She served out the set on two straight aces after winning a challenge on the first, which had originally been ruled out.

On a 40-love break-point opportunity in the second set, Osaka faltered and allowed Pliskova to rebound and take a one-game lead. Having lost some steam, Osaka committed 11 unforced errors in the set and let Pliskova break her twice to send the match into a decider.

In the third set, Osaka held serve after three deuces and three break points. She then broke to take the lead 2-1 when Pliskova came up short on a backhand. With regained confidence, Osaka remained focused and served out the final set for a chance to hoist the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

In Saturday's final, Osaka will face No. 6 Kvitova as the pair battle for the top spot in the women's rankings. The 28-year-old Czech beat No. 35 American Danielle Collins 7-6(2), 6-0 in Thursday's first semifinal.

It will be the first meeting between Osaka and the two-time Wimbledon winner, who will also be playing in her first Australian Open final.

Osaka beat WTA Finals winner Elina Svitolina in straight sets on Wednesday and became the first Japanese woman since Kimiko Date in 1994 to advance to the Australian Open semifinals.

She is the first Japanese player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam singles title, having defeated childhood idol Serena Williams at the U.S. Open final in September.

 


Keywords: Sport, Tennis, World News,
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