Osaka edges Kvitova for Australian Open title

Centre stage Japan's Naomi Osaka celebrates with the trophy

Rather than tearfully hiding her face as she did in New York, Osaka beamed with joy at a win she said was still sinking in. For most young players, blowing a huge lead against a veteran in a Grand Slam would mean certain doom.

At 21 years and three months, Osaka is also the youngest Australian Open champion in 11 years - Maria Sharapova was 20 years and nine months old when she won the title in 2008.

She edged Czech tennis player Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4. But she was proud of how far she has come since she returned to the Tour.

It has been a rapid rise.

It would be a most satisfying victory for Osaka, given her win in the US Open final was overshadowed by the drama surrounding Williams.

Kvitova regrouped and kept her hopes alive with the first break of the match to go up 2-0 in the second after going after Osaka´s second serve. In the process, she also made Osaka lose her fourth set over the last fortnight - making the Japanese player the first woman to have dropped more than three sets on her way to the Australian title. It was not, however, what caused her eyes to well up during the trophy ceremony.

She had already seen her stock skyrocket after the US Open - sponsorships flowed in from Japan, one of whom, the noodle-maker Nissin, even withdrew an animated advert featuring Osaka after accusations of "whitewashing". Among those looking to halt Serena's charge: world number one Simona Halep, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and US Open victor Naomi Osaka.

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This time there was no such controversy surrounding Naomi Osaka's Grand Slam victory.

Petra Kvitova really wanted to be the Australian Open champion. "You've been through so much, honestly I wouldn't have wanted this to be our first match", Osaka said. And with that comes all-consuming attention.

The victor at Melbourne Park will also move to No. 1 for the first time when the next women's rankings are released.

Kvitova saved her own break point in the following game - serving wide before following up with a forehand victor.

"I knew that Petra couldn't keep it up for that long if Naomi could just manage those emotions", said Osaka's coach, Sascha Bajin, "and she did that beautifully". I do remember coming the first time I was alone in the locker room in Prague in the club, and I came to my team and said, Well, it was the first time I was alone there, and, yeah, it was a good one today that I really felt okay.

"I wrote notes before this but I still forgot the rest of what I was gonna say, so thank you everyone, I'm really honoured to play in this final".

The big-swinging Czech suffered disappointing early exits at Grand Slams in 2018 despite winning five titles on the year. That's a very human thing to do. Like, you know how some people get worked up about things? Every time you are stepping on the court, you are kind of favorite of the match.

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