Naomi Osaka: "It means a lot to have the energy from the crowd" - UBITENNIS
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Naomi Osaka: “It means a lot to have the energy from the crowd”

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Naomi Osaka claimed her fourth Grand Slam title with a 6-4 6-3 win over US Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open women’s final. The Japanese 23-year-old player added this win to the previous three Major trophies she won four of the past six Majors at the 2019 Australian Open and at the 2018 and 2020 US Open on hard court. 

 

“I am really happy right now. I think this is a moment that I have been working for during the entire preseason. It’s weird when you get to that final point, you start trembling because you can think of the “what-ifs”. I feel like I am living in a”what-if”. 

Osaka has become the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to win each of her first four Grand Slam final matches. She has become the third player overall in more than a half a century to achieve this feat after Seles and Roger Federer. 

Osaka beat Brady in their previous head-to-head match in the 2020 US Open semifinal. 

“Tonight I felt like tonight’s match was more of a mental battle. I think we were both nervous. Of course, I can’t speak for her, but I was extremely nervous. I honestly just told myself before the match, I am not going to play well. I should not put pressure on myself to play perfectly., but just go out there and fight for every point. The outcome is whatever it wants to be, but I can live with the fact that I tried very hard. You don’t go into a final wanting to be the runner-up. For me, I feel like every opportunity that I play a Slam is an opportunity to win a Slam, so I think maybe I put that pressure on myself too much, but honestly it’s working out in my favour right now”.  

Osaka took the opportunity to thank the fans, who attended today’s Australian Open final, but were absent at last September’s US Open due to the global pandemic.

“I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans, so just to have this energy, it really means a lot. Thank you very much for coming. I feel like playing a Grand Slam right now is a super privilege. It’s something I won’t take for granted”, said Osaka during the post-match trophy presentation. 

Earlier at this tournament Osaka was on the verge of losing in the fourth round, where she saved two match points against Garbine Muguruza, before beating Su-Wei Hsieh, Serena Williams and Jennifer Brady. 

Osaka becomes the fourth player after Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Li Na to win the Australian Open title in the last decade after saving match points. 

Osaka becomes the 16th woman in the Open Era and only the fourth active player to win four Grand Slam singles titles. The other three players still in activity who achieved this feat are Serena and Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. 

Mats Wilander said on Eurosport that Osaka could win ten Grand Slam titles, if she stays healthy. 

“I like to take things, not big picture. I like to live in the moment. It’s an honour that Mats Wilander said that, but I don’t want to weigh myself myself down the pressure and expectations. I know that the people that I am playing are the best players in the world, and, if the time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come. But for right now I can now control what I can control, and that’s working now and giving myself opportunities”. 

Thanks to her triumph at Melbourne Park Osaka will rise to world number 2 player in the world behind Ashleigh Barty, but the Japanese player is set to dominate world tennis in the years to come. 

“Honestly, I don’t really think about the ranking at all. I don’t play the most tournaments in the tour. I just want to do well in all of the tournaments that I play. My goal is to be consistent this year, not to have a huge drop-off randomly in the middle section like June, July, you know, how I usually do, but I don’t want to think too much about the rankings. It will come if I play well, and that’s what I tell myself”. 

Osaka is the fourth player of either gender since the Open Era began in 1968 to claim each of the first four Grand Slam finals on the same surface. Most recently Rafael Nadal lifted four titles at Roland Garros from 2005 to 2008 and at Wimbledon in 2008 after an epic final against Roger Federer and in 2010. 

Osaka will continue working hard with her coach Wim Fissette to achieve her next goal to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the two Grand Slam titles, that are still missing from her trophy cabinet. 

“Hopefully I can win my first non hard-court title on clay, because it’s the one that’s sooner. For me, I feel like I have to get comfortable on those surfaces. That’s the key thing that I didn’ play juniors, so I didn’t grow up playing on grass at all. I honestly think I would have better luck on clay, because I think last year I didn’t play bad at all. It’s just something that I have to get more used to”.  

Brady, who was aiming to become the second consecutive US player to win the Australian Open title after Sofia Kenin, was the first to congratulate Osaka. 

“I would like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title. She is such an inspiration to us all and what she is doing for the game is amazing in getting the sport out there and I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she is doing”, said Brady.  

Despite the defeat in the Melbourne title match after enduring hard quarantine in the weeks before the Australian Open, Brady was happy with her first Grand Slam final experience. 

“The final did not go the way that i wanted, but I would say it was exciting to be out there. I enjoyed every single minute playing in front of fans in my first Grand Slam final, and I hope there is many more. I knew I was going to be nervous, but towards the middle of the first set I started to get a little bit more comfortable and then I just did not feel like I was playing my best tennis out there, which is unfortunate. I came a little bit nervous in the beginning”, admitted Brady during the post-match press conference. 

Brady is confident that the goal of winning a Grand Slam title in the future is within her reach. 

“I think I belong at this level. Winning a Grand Slam is totally achievabale. It’s within reach. Playing out there, obviously I was nervous, did not go my way, but at the same time coming off the court, I was, like, okay, that feels a little bit normal. It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like. If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I would not think it’s possible or it would feel like it’s going to Mars. After the final I have mixed feelings. I am pretty proud of myself, my team, for what we achieved here. We came here and I achieved my first Grand Slam final. I am walking away with the runner-up trophy, not the winner’s trophy, so that’s a little bit sad, but I would say I am pretty happy with my performance over the past couple of weeks. I should have capitalized on the fact that she wasn’t really many first serves, and I think that’s a huge weapon of her. It’s a bit reassuring knowing that also maybe she was feeling a bit nervous. We are both humans, not robots. You can have bad days, great days. In the end I think maybe the better player usually wins”. 

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Aljaz Bedene rallies from one set down to beat Jannik Sinner in Montpellier

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Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene came back from one set down to beat 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner 3-6 6-2 7-6 (7-5) to reach the second round at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier. Sinner was hindered by a back injury in the final stages of the match. 

 

Bedene entered the match with a 2-1 lead in his head-to-head matches against Sinner, but the Italian 19-year-old player won their most recent clash at the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne en route to the second title of his career.  

Sinner earned his only break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 and held his next service games to close out the opening set 6-3 with a forehand down the line. 

Sinner went down 0-40 in the fourth game of the second set on serve, but he saved three consecutive break points. Bedene converted his fourth break point at deuce, as Sinner made an error at the net. Sinner forced the next game to deuce, but Bedene held his serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Bedene closed out the second set 6-2 with his double break at 15.

Sinner saved a break point and held serve after two deuces in the second game. The Italian player wasted two break points in the third and fifth games. 

Sinner earned an erly mini-break, but Bedene got back on serve immediately. Bedene opened up a 4-2 lead with two more mini-breaks in the tie-break before Sinner received a medical time-out to a lower back injury. Bedene earned two more mini-breaks to close out the match after 2 hours and 39 minutes. 

Bedene becomes the first player outside the top 10 to defeat Sinner indoors in a year. Sinner entered the match on a 10-match indoor winning streak against players outside the top 10, which dated back to the quarter final defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta in Rotterdam. 

“In the first set Sinner was the better player. Afterwards, I became more aggressive and was making less mistakes. I think that decided it. On the important points I was there. I didn’t lose my focus”, said Bedene. 

Bedene set up a second round match against Egor Gerasimov, who beat Andy Murray 7-6 (10-8) 6-1on Tuesday evening. 

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina converted six of his fifteen break points to overcome Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-2 setting up a second round match against Hubert Hurkacz. 

French qualifier Gregoire Barrere broke twice in each set and won 65 % of his second service points to defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4 6-4. 

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Marin Cilic beats Taro Daniel to reach the quarter final at the Singapore Open

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Former US Open champion and world number 3 Marin Cilic won 82% of his first-serve points and and fended off three of the four break points he faced to claim a 7-5 6-4 win over Taro Daniel after 1 hour and 40 minutes at the Singapore Tennis Open. 

 

Cilic converted his second break point at deuce in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Daniel broke back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Cilic earned his second break in the 11th game and served out the first set at love in the 10th game. Cilic earned the only break in the 10th game to seal the second set 6-4. 

Cilic set up a quarter final match against South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon, who came back from one set down to beat Thai-Son Kwiatkowski 4-6 6-3 6-4. 

Fourth seed Alexander Bublik fired 10 aces to beat Turkish qualifier Altug Celikbilek 6-3 6-2. Bublik will take on Yoshihito Nishioka, who won 62 % of hsi second serve points to claim a 6-4 6-2 win over Maxime Cressy. 

Australia’s Alexei Popyrin overcame Adrian Andreev 6-1 5-7 6-3. Popyrin earned two breaks in the fourth and sixth games to win the first set 6-1. Andreev sealed the second set 7-5 with his only break in the 12th game. Poppyrin broke twice in the fifth and ninth games to close out the third set 6-3.  

Italy’s Roberto Marcora broke once in each set to upset former top 10 player Ernest Gulbis 7-5 6-4 setting up a second round match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Matthew Ebden edged Yuki Bhambri 6-3 7-6 (7-3) to secure his spot in the second round where he will face second round match against second seed John Millman.

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Lorenzo Sonego beats Sebastian Korda to reach the quarter final in Montpellier

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Lorenzo Sonego cruised past US Next Gen player Sebastian Korda 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the quarter final for the eighth time in his career on the ATP Tour. Sonego will face either David Goffin or Benjamin Bonzi. 

 

Sonego did not convert a break point at 2-1 in the opening set. Korda earned two break points in the fifth game, but Sonego saved them at deuce. The Italian player broke serve at 15 to open up a 4-2 lead and held his next service games to claim the first set 6-3.

The second set went on serve the first four games before Sonego earned a break with a forehand passing shot to take a 3-2 lead. The 2020 Vienna finalist came back from 0-30 down to hold his serve before breaking for the second time in the seventh game at 15 to race out a 5-2 lead. Sonego served out the win on his first match point in the eighth game to reach his first ATP Tour quarter finals this year.

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