Since her controversial victory over Serena Williams to win the American Open this past fall, her first major league competition victory, Naomi Osaka has been on a roll. Osaka is on top yet again after winning the Australian Open on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Osaka was at the center of controversy in the tennis world back in September of 2018, when she won the American Open in a match against Serena Williams, who has been at the forefront of women’s tennis for over a decade. During the match against Osaka, Williams had multiple game points taken away for ‘coaching’ during the tournament and unsportsmanlike behavior. These point deductions, along with Osaka’s strong skills, led to the 21-year-old sensation grabbing the title.
On Saturday, Osaka was up against Petra Kvitova, a tennis player from the Czech Republic who has won two Grand Slam titles and won the Wimbledon Championships in 2011 and 2014.
The match was riveting, with Osaka winning two out of the three matches against Kvitova. Kvitova earned five break points in the first set but was unable to convert them. She also saved three championship points in the second but was unable to turn them over as well.
Osaka has made a name for herself through her abilities on the court, not just by being at the center of one of the most-covered tennis scandals in the past year. When Osaka came into the Australian Open at the beginning of 2018, she was ranked No. 72 on the world ranking list. After Saturday’s competition, the rankings that come out on Monday, Jan. 28, will recognize Osaka as the No. 1 ranked women’s tennis player.
This marks a special occasion, both for Osaka and for the tennis world. On Monday, Osaka will become the first Japanese tennis player out of both men and women to ever hold the title of No. 1 singles player. The only Asian player to come close was Li Na, who is now retired. In 2014, Na won the Australian Open and rose to No. 2, after No. 1 Serena Williams.
Osaka’s win in Melbourne not only solidifies her place in the eyes of the tennis world, but also establishes that the young star has staying power. She is the first woman since 2001 to win her first two major titles back to back, after Jennifer Capriati won both the Australian Open and the French Open in succession.
Osaka is well-respected by her opponents as well.
“Definitely she is a great one. We’ll see what the future will bring. But, for sure, she has probably everything that has to be there to play her best tennis,” Kvitova said after the match.
Kvitova, now 28, talked to the New York Times about some of the pressure that Osaka may be under now that she has risen into public view.
“You’re thinking like you have to win every single match because you just won a Grand Slam,” Kvitova said during an interview. “I put [on] a bit more pressure than I should have.”
Despite the scrutiny of the public eye, Osaka is still pushing herself. She has worked on her form, creating more spin on her forehand, as well as working on the placement and pace of her serve. This helped Osaka win on Saturday, as she finished the tournament with 59 aces. She has also won 60 consecutive matches, which lead her to Saturday’s triumph. With the path she’s following, it is likely that the public will hear more from Osaka in the near future.