Japan’s Naomi Osaka powered past American Jennifer Brady in straight sets on Saturday in the championship match of the 2021 Australian Open, as Osaka secured her fourth title in her past eight appearances at Grand Slam events.
Naomi Osaka of Japan kisses the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning her Women’s Singles Final … [+] match against Jennifer Brady of the United States during day 13 of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 20, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)
Brady, a 25-year-old American appearing in her first Grand Slam final, played well early on, as the match was square at 4-all in the first set before Osaka took control
Osaka, 23, would go on to win six consecutive games and cruise to a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
According to the WTA, Osaka’s win will raise her ranking to No. 2 in the world on Monday, behind only Ashleigh Barty.
“She’s such an inspiration to us all, and what she’s doing for the game is amazing in getting the sport out there,” said Brady, “I hope young girls at home are watching and inspired by what she’s doing.”
Remarkably, Osaka is undefeated in major finals (4-0) and a combined 12-0 in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of Grand Slam events. Her four major titles rank third among all active players, behind only the Williams sisters, Serena (23) and Venus (7).
Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian-American father. The family moved to the United States when Naomi was 3. Under Japan’s Nationality Act, individuals who hold dual citizenship must choose one before their 22nd birthday. In October of 2019, a week before turning 22, Osaka gave up her U.S. citizenship to represent Japan in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo (which ended up being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic). In 2020, Osaka earned a whopping $37.4 million from prize money and endorsements. According to Forbes, this represented an all-time earnings record for a female athlete in a single year, breaking the record previously by Maria Sharapova, who earned $29.7 million in 2015. “To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” David Carter, a sports business professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, told Forbes. “Combine that with being youthful and bicultural, two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences, and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.”
In the semifinals on Thursday, Osaka knocked off Serena Williams, who is still searching for her record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. Osaka also defeated Williams, 39, in the controversial 2018 US Open final. “I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play,” Osaka said about Williams, after Thursday’s match, adding “just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream.”
What To Watch For:
The 2021 Australian Open Men’s final will take place Sunday (7:30 p.m. local time, 3:30 a.m. ET). Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, who is chasing his 18th career Grand Slam title, will take on No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev, who will be appearing in his second major final.
$2.1 million: That’s the prize money Osaka was awarded for winning the Australian Open on Saturday.
Naomi Osaka Is The Highest-Paid Female Athlete Ever (Forbes)
Serena Williams Vs. Naomi Osaka: By The Numbers (Forbes)