An all Czech Australian Open final was not to be as Naomi Osaka of Japan has defeated Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-2 4-6 6-4, to earn her place in a second straight Grand Slam final. Osaka won the US Open last year, and is the first player since Kim Clijsters in 2005-6 to back up a grand slam win by going deep in the next one, with Clijsters winning the US Open in 2005 and then reaching the semis of the 2006 Australian Open. The last to win back-to-back Grand Slams was Serena Williams in 2015.
This win for Osaka has ended Pliskova’s 10 match winning streak, as she came into the Australian Open after winning the Brisbane International title.
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Photo: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 24: Naomi Osaka of Japan reacts in her Women’s Semi Final match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic during day 11 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Osaka first broke in the third game, brining up her third break point (a double fault brought up her first two, but they were both saved when Pliskova forced Osaka to hit two consecutive errors) and then converting it with two consecutive backhand winners. Pliskova was able to hold to love in her next service game, but then couldn’t hold again has a double fault handed Osaka a second break of serve and gave her the chance to serve for the first set.
Osaka broke again the first game of the second set, but Pliskova immediately broke back. Osaka had another three chances to break in the next game at 0-40, but Pliskova fought then off to hold her serve. Osaka then found herself facing a break point in the eighth game, but Pliskova was unable to convert it, allowing the Japanese to hold.
At 5-4, Pliskova in front, Osaka was serving to stay in the second set, but Pliskova broke to love, winning the second set and taking the match to a decider.
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Photo: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 24: Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic plays a forehand in her Women’s Semi Final match against Naomi Osaka of Japan during day 11 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Pliskova had three chances to break in the second game of the third set, but she could not convert any of them. Osaka then had a triple break point in the following game, and she was able to break on the first break point when Pliskova hit the ball long. The Czech had a chance to break back and put the games back on serve in the eighth game, but Osaka saved it with an ace to hold 5-3 and be within one game of the Australian Open final.
Pliskova held her serve, meaning it was up to the Japanese to serve it out. She hit a forehand winner to bring up a match point. An ace secured her spot in the final, though it was initially called out wide, Osaka challenged to call to reveal that it was indeed in, just catching the line.
Osaka’s words at the conclusion of the match: “I kind of expected it (Pliskova winning the second set after Osaka took the first) a little, because I played her so many times and honestly she beat me more than I beat her so I was expecting a really hard battle and 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 so.”
In the final, Osaka will face another Czech, Petra Kvitova for a chance to lift the Australian Open trophy for the first time, as well as claim the no. 1 ranking for the first time. The two have never played each other before, so this woman’s singles final is one filled with firsts.