Melbourne, Jan 26 (IANS) Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Saturday saved three consecutive match points in the second set to make Naomi Osaka of Japan sweat a little more for a 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-4 win in a nail-biting Australian Open final.
The 21-year-old Osaka secured the top spot of the WTA ranking — which will be issued on Monday — becoming the first Japanese player ever to top the rankings since the beginning of the current ranking system in 1975 and the youngest to do so since Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark achieved that feat at the age of 20 years and 92 days in 2010, reports Efe.
“Huge congrats to Petra. I’ve always wanted to play you. You’ve been through so much. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted this to be our first match,” an emotional Osaka said during the trophy ceremony.
It took the 21-year-old Osaka two hours and 27 minutes and five match points to secure her second Grand Slam title in a row, following her successful 2018 US Open campaign, when she prevailed over Serena Williams of the United States.
If the controversy that erupted when Williams called the chair umpire a thief cast a shadow over Osaka’s maiden major title, nothing but the eagerness and the great fight by both players marked the nerve-wracking final in the Land Down Under.
With her third Grand Slam title at stake and the first final of what she has called her “second career,” Kvitova, who survived what seemed like a career-ending stabbing injury to her playing hand late in 2016, tried to put pressure on her opponent from the beginning.
Subsequently, she created two break points in a long fifth game, which featured three deuces, but Osaka, the 2018 Indian Wells champion, served her way out of trouble as she did a game later, when she faced three consecutive break points.
In the 12th game, Osaka had two set points on Kvitova’s serve, but the Czech player fended off the two break points, as she did with the first chance earlier, pushing the set to a tie break.
The Japanese player eased past Kvitova in the tie break, moving a set closer to score her 14th consecutive win in Grand Slam events dating back to the first round of the 2018 US Open.
In the early going of the second set, Kvitova broke Osaka’s first serve for a 2-0 lead in what seemed to be a timely reaction, but the Japanese player did not offer her a foothold as she proceeded to win four games in a row, two service breaks included.
It was in the tenth game of the second set when Osaka had three consecutive match points as she was leading 40-0 on the Czech serve, but a fighting staged an unexpected comeback.
Yet, serving for the match in the following game, Osaka was unable to deliver and won just one point as she saw her serve broken for Kvitova to draw level 5-5 in the second set.
A highly-motivated Kvitova saved a break point in the following game and eased to seal the set as Osaka failed to win a point on the serve in the 12th game.
Osaka pulled herself together as the third set offered her a new start and she seemed to be eager to make the most of it.
After an easy hold for both players in first couple of games, Osaka, having learned from the first two sets, seized on the first break point she had to take a 2-1 lead.
Once again, Osaka built on the one-service break advantage until 5-4, but this time was on her serve.
Having assimilated her second-set mistakes, she capitalised on the fifth match point — the second in a row — to post her first win over the Czech player, who won Wimbledon twice in 2011 and 2014, in their first-ever meeting.