Ash Barty's grip on the world number one ranking remains for now after winning in three sets against seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the Miami Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The 2019 Miami Open champion defeated Sabalenka 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 in humid conditions in South Florida to reach the last four, where the Australian will face fifth seed Elina Svitolina.

Svitolina won in the later match on Tuesday over Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-2.

Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, did not drop her serve once against the Belarusian, saving seven break points throughout the match as she bids to retain her top ranking.

Barty is under threat from 2021 Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka for the number one ranking, with the Japanese also into the quarters.

The Australian will retain the top ranking by reaching the decider, regardless of second seed Osaka's results.

"It was a brilliant match today," Barty said in her on-court interview. "It was certainly the best level I’ve played for a long time and especially over a sustained period.

"Aryna really made me bring out my best stuff today. She’s an exceptional competitor."

Barty has now won 10 consecutive matches in Miami, dating back to her 2019 title with 2020's event cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine's Svitolina, ranked fifth in the world, reached the Miami Open semi-finals for the first time with her win over the unseeded Sevastova.

"I've always wanted to play well here in Miami," said Svitolina, who made last year's French Open quarter-finals.

"It's one of the biggest tournaments and playing here is always amazing, so I'm really pleased with the performance tonight."

World number two Naomi Osaka and defending champion Ash Barty advanced to the quarter-finals of the Miami Open.

Osaka reached the last eight at the WTA Premier event for the first time in her career thanks to Monday's straight-sets win over Elise Mertens.

World number one Barty overcame two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka in a tough three-set battle in Miami.

 

THERE'S NO STOPPING OSAKA

Australian Open champion Osaka extended her winning streak to a remarkable 23 matches.

Osaka defeated 16th seed Mertens 6-3 6-3 to stay hot – Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Azarenka are the only other players with winning streaks of 23 or more matches since 2000.

"It definitely feels very special," four-time major winner Osaka said. "This is one of my favourite tournaments to play, and of course I'm sad I hadn't been able to get to the second week the last times that I have played this tournament. But I'm here now, and hopefully it will go well this time."

Maria Sakkari is next for Osaka after the 23rd seed saved six match points in her 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Jessica Pegula.

 

BARTY WINS BATTLE OF PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER ONES

In a rollercoaster battle, top seed Barty prevailed 6-1 1-6 6-2 against 14th seed Azarenka.

Barty extended her winning streak in Miami to nine matches after coming out on top against the former world number one.

"Playing against Vika you have to be ready right from the first point," Barty said. "I felt like I did that well in the first set and she gave me a few cheap errors. Then through the second she lifted her intensity.

"I probably wasn't sharp enough in those first couple of games to be able to go with her, particularly with new balls. When Vika is ahead and she's a front runner, she's the very best in the world."

Aryna Sabalenka stands in the way of Barty and the semi-finals after the seventh seed trounced Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2.

 

SVITOLINA WINS THRILLER, ANDREESCU RALLIES

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina rallied past two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 2-6 7-5 7-5.

Svitolina made a slow start against the red-hot ninth seed, but the 2018 WTA Finals champion finished strongly to progress.

Anastasija Sevastova took down Ana Konjuh 6-1 7-5 to set up a clash with Svitolina.

Meanwhile, eighth seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu came from behind to defeat two-time slam winner Garbine Muguruza 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Naomi Osaka did not raise a sweat en route to the Miami Open last 16 as Garbine Muguruza moved through but Sofia Kenin and Karolina Pliskova bowed out.

Australian Open champion and second seed Osaka benefited from a walkover after qualifier Nina Stojanovic withdrew ahead of Sunday's clash due to a right thigh injury.

Elise Mertens will face Osaka following the 16th seed's 6-2 0-6 6-2 win against Anett Kontaveit.

Two-time grand slam winner Muguruza rallied past Russian wildcard Anna Kalinskaya at the WTA Premier event.

However, fourth seed Kenin was sent packing as sixth seed Pliskova was tamed by nemesis Jessica Pegula in Miami.

 

MUGURUZA STAYS HOT

Spanish star Muguruza dug deep to earn her tour-leading 20th win of the season.

Former world number one Muguruza – the 12th seed – prevailed 4-6 6-3 6-4 against Kalinskaya, having trailed 3-0 in the final set.

"I brought my fighting spirit and I could match the level of fighting against Anna, and very happy to go through these tough matches," Muguruza said following two hours, 41 minutes on court.

"Doesn't matter if you play pretty or you play ugly, but you stay strong and you go through these rounds. That gives me an opportunity to feel better and to have another chance."

Muguruza – who has the most final appearances this season with three, having won the Dubai Tennis Championships and finished runner-up at the Qatar Open and Yarra Valley Classic – will next face eighth seed Bianca Andreescu.

Former US Open champion Andreescu overcame fellow seed Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

 

KENIN'S WOES CONTINUE

It has been a rough 2021 for American star Kenin.

Stunned in the second round of the Australian Open – in her title defence – Kenin then crashed out of the Phillip Island Trophy at the first hurdle.

Kenin rallied to beat Andrea Petkovic first-up in Miami, but the 22-year-old was beaten 6-4 4-6 6-4 by 27th seed Ons Jabeur.

Jabeur and Sara Sorribes Tormo – who shocked 21st seed Elena Rybakina 6-1 3-6 6-2 – will meet for a spot in the quarter-finals.

 

PLISKOVA FALLS TO PEGULA… AGAIN

For the third time this past month, 2019 Miami Open runner-up Pliskova went down 6-1 4-6 6-4 to 29th seed Pegula.

Australian Open quarter-finalist Pegula conquered Pliskova in Doha and Dubai before repeating the feat in Miami on Sunday.

"I played her a lot the last three weeks, three tournaments," Pegula said. "I kind of expected her to play well there. Even when I was up I still felt like she could easily come back just because she plays so aggressive and she serves well."

After reeling off the final four games, Pegula set up a last-16 showdown with 23rd seed Maria Sakkari, who dismantled qualifier Liudmila Samsonova 6-0 6-1.

Second seed Naomi Osaka picked up where she left off at last month's Australian Open, winning her first match since lifting the title in Melbourne.

Osaka earned her place in the Miami Open third round on Friday with a hard-fought straight-sets victory over Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady was knocked out in the second round by 58th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Brady's defeat was the major surprise on Friday, with Sorribes Tormo fighting back from a set down to win.

Top 10 seeds Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin also progressed, with the latter coming from a set behind to beat Andrea Petkovic.

OSAKA CONTINUES WINNING RUN

Osaka extended her winning streak to 22 matches, although it was not easy against Tomljanovic.

The Japanese got the edge 7-6 (7-3) 6-4, firing down 36 winners, including 13 aces in a match lasting one hour, 38 minutes.

"This is my first match since Australia, so I just really wanted to play well," Osaka said in her on-court post-match interview. "I kind of feel like I'm at home here, because I grew up [near here] for most of my life."

Tomljanovic did not go down without a fight but was let down by 24 unforced errors.

Osaka will next face Serbian qualifier Nina Stojanovic in the third round.

 

BRADY BEATEN AGAIN

World number 14 Brady succumbed to in-form Monterrey Open semi-finalist Sorribes Tormo 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Brady had a dream run to the final at the Australian Open last month but came back to earth with a thud against the Spaniard, who has won 10 of her past 11 matches.

The match lasted two hours, 22 minutes, with Sorribes Tormo finding the edge in the last as Brady's first-serve percentage dropped to 30.8 per cent.

Brady's defeat comes a few weeks after being humbled by Anett Kontaveit in less than an hour in the Qatar Open first round.

MIXED BAG FOR SEEDS

Tenth seed Kiki Bertens, in her third match back from Achilles surgery, was knocked out by Russian qualifier Ludmilla Samsonova 6-2 6-1 inside an hour.

Fourth seed and last year's Australian Open champion Kenin responded after losing the first set to defeat Andrea Petkovic, winning 6-7 (6-8) 6-1 6-3. The match was Kenin's first since appendix surgery.

Sixth seed Pliskova comfortably got past Zheng Saisai 6-2 6-1 and 2019 US Open champion Andreescu triumphed over Tereza Martincova 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Seeds Elena Rybakina, Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Ons Jabeur and Amanda Anisimova all won, with 20th seed Petra Martic and Sloane Stephens both knocked out.

Sloane Stephens ended her losing run to start the year with a hard-fought three-set win over France's Oceane Dodin in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday.

Former US Open champion Stephens, ranked 49th in the world, defeated Dodin 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-2.

Stephens progresses to the second round where the top seeds, including top three Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, will be introduced and she will face 28th seed Amanda Anisimova.

Danielle Collins, Wang Qiang, Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia were among the other winners on Wednesday, while Svetlana Kuznetsova bowed out.

 

SLOANE FIGHTBACK

Stephens had endured a dismal start to 2021, enduring an 0-4 win-loss record to begin the year.

The 28-year-old American was made to do it the hard way against Dodin on Wednesday, dropping the first set in a tie-break.

Stephens improved on her return in the second set, winning 73 per cent of points off Dodin's second serve before running away with the match in the last.

"It's been a rough one for me lately, so I'm really pleased to get through that, fight my way through it and make it happen somehow," Stephens said post-match.

FORMER MAJOR WINNER GONE

Two-time grand slam winner Kuznetsova was the major first-round casualty, going down 2-6 6-2 6-1 to France's Alize Cornet.

Kuznetsova, who is now ranked 35th in the world, bows out with Cornet to face ninth seed Petra Kvitova.

Collins got past France's Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-3 with the 40th-ranked American setting up a second-round clash with 32nd seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Wang, ranked 38th in the world, also progressed despite dropping a set in a 6-1 3-6 6-3 win over Spanish qualifier Aliona Bolsova.

SECOND-ROUND MATCH-UPS

The round of 64 will commence on Thursday, with third seed Halep to face Garcia who got past another Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1 6-2.

Top seed Barty will be in action against Slovakia's Kristina Kucova, while fourth seed Sofia Kenin will take on former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic.

Second seed Osaka has an assignment against 77th-ranked Australian Ajla Tomljanovic, while 14th seed Victoria Azarenka is already into the third round with opponent Laura Siegemund withdrawing after her win on Tuesday.

Robert Lewandowski heads a stellar list of nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after a golden 12 months for Bayern Munich.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and tennis great Rafael Nadal are also in contention. Joshua Cheptegei and Armand Duplantis complete the male nominees.

Poland striker Lewandowski enjoyed a memorable 2020 for the German giants, with his impeccable performances helping Bayern to a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble. 

Across the top-five European leagues, no player could match Lewandowski's 45 goals scored in all competitions from January 1 to December 31 with Cristiano Ronaldo his nearest rival on 41.

In that 12-month period, only Barcelona great Lionel Messi (115) and Juventus superstar Ronaldo (85) registered more shots on target than Lewandowski's 83, while a shot-conversion rate of 34.09 was the fifth highest among players to score at least 20.

Reflecting his all-round contribution, Lewandowski recorded 12 assists in the calendar year, with team-mate Thomas Muller leading the way on an impressive 21. 

Unsurprisingly, Lewandowski won a fifth Torjagerkanone (awarded to the Bundesliga's top scorer) overall and a third in a row thanks to 34 Bundesliga goals in 2019-20, higher than an expected goals rate of 26.9. His 15 goals in the Champions League were also a competition high.

 

In a stacked deck, James is included after a year that saw him win a fourth career NBA title and first with the Lakers, while he also claimed a fourth Finals MVP award.

Across six games in the Lakers' 4-2 triumph over the Miami Heat, James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists, while he shot 59.1 per cent from the field and drained 41.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

Mercedes driver Hamilton won a seventh F1 drivers' title in 2020 to match the overall record of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

During another sensational season, the Briton reached 95 career race wins, which surpasses the previous benchmark of 91 set by Schumacher.

In a calendar year disrupted heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal still had personal reason to celebrate after winning a record-extending 13th French Open title.

His triumph at Roland Garros means he now stands alongside Roger Federer on 20 grand slams – the most achieved in the men's game.

Uganda's Cheptegei broke both 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records in 2020, while Duplantis of Sweden broke the indoor and outdoor pole vault record.

Tennis' global superstar Naomi Osaka is nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

The Japanese was champion at the US Open in 2020, which took her career slam tally to three. She recently made that four by winning the first major of 2021 at the Australian Open.

Lyon captain Wendie Renard is in contention after helping her team to a fifth straight Women's Champions League title, while WNBA Finals MVP award winner Breanna Stewart is included after guiding the Seattle Storm to championship glory.

Cyclist Anna van der Breggen – who won both the road race and time trial at the World Championships – is up for the prize, as is skier Federica Brignone, the first Italian woman to win the overall World Cup.

Kenya's Brigid Kosgei completes the women's nominees after winning the rescheduled London Marathon by more than three minutes.

Bayern, the Lakers and Mercedes are all up for the World Team of the Year Award, as are Liverpool, who won a first English top-flight title in 30 years.

The Kansas City Chiefs make the list after winning a first Super Bowl since 1970, while Argentina's men's rugby team are nominated after earning a first ever win over three-time world champions New Zealand.

Patrick Mahomes' role in the Chiefs Super Bowl win earned him a nomination for the World Breakthrough of the Year Award, with Iga Swiatek up for the prize after winning the women's singles at the French Open aged 19, the youngest slam winner since 1990.

MotoGP world champion Joan Mir, Tour de France victor Tadej Pogacar, US Open male champion Dominic Thiem and prodigious Barcelona talent Ansu Fati complete that category.

Naomi Osaka may be a two-time Australian Open champion but the relaxed four-time major winner still feels unrecognised when she walks the streets of Melbourne, insisting she is not like Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career after outclassing Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in Saturday's Australian Open final.

Former world number one Osaka – who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park – also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to clinch multiple Australian Open titles. 

Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat – she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

Reflecting on her triumph during Sunday's celebratory photoshoot, the Japanese star told reporters: "I think the quarantine affected me in the way that I had to go within myself a lot.

"Your sort of in a room by yourself and your forced to face your own thoughts. For me, I think in the end that was a good thing because there were a lot of things that I meditated on and I thought about and I think coming here really helped me because it made me a bit more confident in my thoughts and my opinions.

"I don't really feel recognised unless it's moments like this. For me, I just like walking by myself outside. I think in a way that I'm kind of lucky because I'm not like a LeBron James or anything like that, that would get recognised everywhere. I'm pretty chill, like it's kind of good."

Osaka is yet to taste success at Wimbledon and the French Open, and she added: "For me, I think that's the biggest goal right now [win Wimbledon or French Open]. I think everyone knows that I can do well on hardcourt, but for me, I just want to get comfortable on the other surfaces."

Naomi Osaka has set her sights on a fifth grand slam trophy after winning the Australian Open.

Osaka added a fourth major title to her collection thanks to Saturday's 6-4 6-3 victory over 22nd seed Jennifer Brady in Melbourne.

Former world number one Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka has been tipped to dominate the WTA Tour and celebrate further major success, but the Japanese star and third seed is not looking too far into the future.

"I'm taking it in sections," Osaka, who reeled off six successive games from 4-4 in the first set against Brady to take control, said during her post-match news conference.

"For right now, I'm trying to go for five. You know, after five I would think about maybe dividing the 10, so maybe seven or eight.

"I like to take things not big-picture. For me, I like to live in the moment. It's an honour that he [Mats Wilander] said that [I would get a minimum of 10], of course.

"But I don't want to weigh myself down with pressure and expectations. I know that the people that I'm playing against are the best players in the world and, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.

"But for right now I can only control what I can control, and that's working hard and giving myself opportunities."

Osaka - who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park - also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to clinch multiple Australian Open titles. 

Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat - she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

Asked about her perfect record in slam finals, Osaka added: "I feel like for me I'm not sure if it's something you're born with.

"But I know that I didn't play a lot of tournaments when I was a kid, so I'd always want to take the opportunity whenever someone was watching me, I'd feel like it was more fun that way.

"So maybe that's how I developed wanting a crowd and wanting to play in front of more people.

"I also think it's because I watched a lot of grand slams growing up and seeing the crowds, seeing Arthur Ashe Stadium, seeing how it was in Australia and Rod Laver, and wanting to play in front of people and wanting to be the person holding up the trophy."

Following in the footsteps of Seles and 20-time slam champion Roger Federer as the only three players to have won their first four major deciders, Osaka said: "That's very amazing company. I hope that I can have one grain of how their career has unfolded.

"You can only wish and you can only just keep going down your own path. But, yeah, it's definitely something crazy to hear."

"I know that everyone was cheering for [Serena Williams] and I'm sorry it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match."

Naomi Osaka's first grand slam title was memorable for all the wrong reasons - the Japanese left in tears after defeating her idol Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final.

Williams was penalised for receiving coaching, slamming her racquet and then arguing with the chair umpire, which cost the 23-time slam champion a game in the second set.

The mood on Arthur Ashe Stadium turned bitter as fans booed during the trophy ceremony.

"I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there," Osaka told the 'Today' show a day after the final. "I know that it wasn't really – the ending wasn't how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don't know. I just felt very emotional. I felt like I had to apologise.

"I felt a little bit sad, because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted. I also could sympathise, because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life, and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win."

Almost three years on and three further slam titles later, that softly-spoken Osaka is now a ruthless machine, just ask Williams.

En route to a fourth slam crown and second Australian Open trophy on Saturday, Osaka overpowered the 23-time major champion in the semi-finals, stopping her ongoing record-equalling quest flat in its tracks.

The queen of women's tennis for so long, Williams could not find a way to beat Osaka.

The here and now, Osaka continues to be Williams' kryptonite in the American superstar's bid match Margaret Court. It could explain why Serena was left in tears and cut short her post-match news conference.

There appears to be no way past Osaka.

Usually timid away from the action, Osaka is ferocious on court but just as calm - her triumphant 2021 Australian Open campaign further proof of that, having saved a pair of match points in the last 16 before topping Jennifer Brady on Rod Laver Arena, where she became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career. 

Lets not forget her anti-racism statements during the last year's US Open. The 23-year-old regularly wore masks onto court to protest against racial injustice in the United States. Osaka's off-court impact is just as powerful across the globe.

As the sun begins to fade on the career of an all-time great, Osaka has the world at her feet in an exciting new era for women's tennis.

An elated Naomi Osaka described playing a grand slam amid the health pandemic as a "super privilege" after outclassing Jennifer Brady to win the Australian Open for a second time.

The Japanese third seed completed a 6-4 6-3 triumph on Rod Laver Arena to become the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka's latest two triumphs in New York and now Melbourne have come amid the coronavirus pandemic, although fans were in attendance for this victory.

The 23-year-old paid tribute to her beaten opponent, who she also defeated at Flushing Meadows, while revelling in another slam success.

"We played in the semis at the US Open a couple of months ago. I told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a problem, and I was right," Osaka said at the post-match presentation.

"My team is like my family so I'm sure you guys will have a lot of adventures together. I know your friends and your family are very proud of you and we're going to play a lot more matches, so get used to that!

"It feels really incredible for me. Just to have this energy [from fans], it really means a lot. Thank you so much for coming.

"Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms towards us. Playing a grand slam right now is a super privilege and I don't take this for granted."

Brady, seeded 22nd, was playing in the first slam final of her career against Osaka, and labelled the former world number one an "inspiration" to every player on the tour.

"Firstly I'd like to congratulate Naomi. She's such an inspiration to us all and what she's doing for the game is amazing. I hope young girls at home are watching are inspired by what she's doing," Brady said.

"I'd like to congratulate her team. You're obviously doing something special and she's getting better every day.

"I'd like to say thanks to my team. Without you guys I wouldn't be standing here tonight. Thank you for everything you've done for me and let's keep going for more.

"Mom, I know you're watching right now in front of the TV, probably crying, so... it was special to play in front of fans. Tonight, it wasn't meant to be, but hopefully there's many more."

Naomi Osaka made history after seeing off Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the Australian Open final for her fourth grand slam crown.

Osaka's big-match experience was telling against first-time finalist Brady in warm conditions, the former world number one reeling off six consecutive games after breaking at 4-4 in the first set to set the tone at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Japanese star Osaka became the first woman since Monica Seles in the early 1990s to emerge victorious from the first four grand slam finals of her career, having boasted a perfect 3-0 record following success at the US Open (2018 and 2020) and Australian Open (2019).

Osaka - who fended off a pair of match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 at Melbourne Park - also became the seventh woman to have won the Australian Open after saving match point, following in the footsteps of Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

Fans were treated to a topsy-turvy opening on Rod Laver Arena, in a rematch of the 2020 US Open semi-final, which Osaka won en route to her third slam title.

Osaka appeared to be on track for a commanding first set, cruising through the opening service game to love before breaking her opponent to love following a double-fault for a 3-1 lead.

Looking rushed in her maiden major final as Osaka enjoyed the big stage, Brady wrestled the momentum after reclaiming the break - the 22nd seed starting to outhit the former in a fascinating baseline battle.

Some out of character misses and errors crept into Osaka's game - 15 in total in the opening set, she managed just 21 in total in her straight-sets win over Serena Williams in the semi-finals.

Full of confidence, Brady had a chance to break Osaka, who fended it off to move ahead 5-4 before the debutant crumbled.

In control at 40-15, Brady's position wilted as she was was caught off-guard by an Osaka return that caught the line and it got worse after firing a volley into the net to gift the third seed the set.

For all of her hard work in an absorbing first set, Brady's hard work came undone early in the second - the fast-moving Osaka winning four consecutive games to close in on victory.

Brady managed to stop the rot by breaking back and clawing two consecutive games, however, it only delayed the inevitable as Osaka further cemented herself as the face of women's tennis.


Data slam: Osaka joins multiple winners
The 23-year-old won in 77 minutes to become the 12th woman in the Open Era to win multiple Australian Open titles. Osaka has now gone 21 matches without defeat - she is only the third woman since 2010 to enjoy an unbeaten streak of 20 or more matches, joining Serena (27 wins between 2014 WTA Finals and 2015 Madrid) and Azarenka (26 wins between 2012 Sydney and Miami).

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Osaka – 16/24
Brady – 15/31

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Osaka – 6/2
Brady – 2/4

BREAK POINTS WON
Osaka – 4/5
Brady – 2/4

Naomi Osaka can continue what is becoming a magical trend with a win in the Australian Open final.

The Japanese star will face Jennifer Brady in the decider at Melbourne Park on Saturday as she eyes a fourth grand slam title.

But Osaka, 23, can also continue an unlikely and rather incredible trend at the year's first grand slam – winning the crown after saving match point.

If she can get past Brady, Osaka would become the seventh woman in the Open Era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point along the way, joining Monica Seles (1991), Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003 and 2005), Li Na (2014), Angelique Kerber (2016) and Caroline Wozniacki (2018).

Osaka was pushed to the brink by Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round of this year's tournament. She faced two match points at 3-5 in the third set, saving the first with an ace down the T – no woman has served more aces than her 44 at the tournament – before a powerful forehand forced Muguruza into an error. Osaka would win four straight games to reach the quarter-finals.

Wozniacki's success three years ago was particularly remarkable as she saved two match points in the second round against Jana Fett, reeling off six straight games from 5-1 down in the final set. The last time it happened in a women's draw outside of the Australian Open was at Wimbledon in 2009, and it has occurred three times since in Melbourne.

Osaka's coach, Wim Fissette, said the mental side of the game was a key focus for the star.

"I think it's just part of the workday by day and where we speak about different topics. And honestly, it's a very important topic for her. She knows the experience of the past years like when her attitude is good, her mind is very clear what she needs to do, what she wants to do, and then she plays well," he said on Friday.

"So, the base of playing really well is a good attitude. Doesn't mean you cannot be negative, like, at some point, you know. It's only human or normal to be frustrated maybe at one point, but to reset immediately, that's a very important one. So it's not something, let's say, we had, like, big conversations about, but it's a daily topic, and it's more coming from Naomi that she wants to be that person that's always, like, behaves well on the court. That's kind of a role model also for younger players."

While Brady shapes as a major test, Osaka has won every major at which she has gone past the fourth round.

Osaka is also on a 20-match winning streak, becoming the third woman since 2010 to achieve such a run – joining Williams (27 in 2014-15) and Victoria Azarenka (26 in 2012). The incredible run included a US Open semi-final win over Brady last year, and Osaka has proven unstoppable – a couple of walkovers aside. Brady pushed Osaka to three sets at Flushing Meadows and the American has put together a fine run of her own in Melbourne.

But the three-time major winner's hot streak has her well-placed for more history on Saturday, and to continue an incredible trend in Melbourne.

Jennifer Brady is on texting terms with an all-time great, told the world her twin sister is "a nerd" in a news conference, and refuelled with twice-daily orders of takeaway food during her Melbourne quarantine.

Naomi Osaka is commanding almost all the attention, but the 'other' Australian Open women's finalist is a peppy character who could head home to the United States next week as a grand slam winner for the first time.

She reached the US Open semi-finals last year too, and has now become the eighth American woman to reach the final of a singles major in the 21st century.

We should talk more about her.

So who's her famous friend?

Brady was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and moved with her family to Florida as a nine-year-old, but "not for tennis".

Sucks to that. At the age of 10 she joined Chris Evert's academy in Boca Raton, learning the ways of the 18-time grand slam winner.

But Brady admits she "had a bit of a temper as a kid" and lacked mental sturdiness, which might just be why it has taken her until the age of 25 to make a major breakthrough.

Evert recognised her talent from an early age though.

"Chrissie messages me every now and then a lot," said Brady. "She is somebody who has seen me since I was 10, 11 years old. So she's probably known me the longest out here.

"It's awesome to have someone like her in your corner, supporting you and cheering for you."

Why haven't we heard about Brady before?

All sports have sliding doors moments and if Michael Geserer had not come into Brady's life, who is to say she would have scaled such heights as these.

Coach Geserer was nudged Brady's way in 2019 by a mutual acquaintance, American coach Billy Heiser, and her career has been on an upwards trajectory ever since.

A promising junior but an unfulfilled talent as a professional, Brady was approaching her mid-20s and searching for direction.

She had already taken the college route into professional sport, playing at the University of California, Los Angeles. Doing so gave initial life to a career that could have been lost to the drip, drip pain of one painful defeat after another while still a junior.

As Brady recalled: "I took a hit there and thought, 'OK, maybe I'm not meant for this sport. Maybe I'm not good enough. I'll go to college for four years and then I'll find a real job.'"

What happened next?

From 55th in the world at the end of 2019, Brady leapt to 24th after the abridged 2020 season. Now the top 10 is beckoning. Her game is suddenly dynamite.

Geserer is German, and Brady took a leap of faith by leaving Florida behind from July to December last year to train in her coach's favoured environment, teaching herself to handle homesickness.

"Once you become too comfortable, I think that's when you're in trouble," Brady said. "Going over and training in Germany, at times I might be, like, 'OK, I wish I was home'. But other times, I'm like, 'OK, it's worth it'.

"I have to do what I have to do to become the best tennis player right now and then afterwards I can live my life."

What. A. Quote. And here's another...

Brady has a twin, Jessica. On Thursday, Jessica copped one in a Melbourne Park news conference.

Asked whether her sister plays tennis at all, Brady was cheekily brutal, saying that Jessica "gave up" and explaining: "She's a nerd. She studies. She's in medical school. So she has the brains and I have the athletic genes."

Everything's Hunky Dory with Brady

Hunky Dory is at the classier end of Melbourne's takeaway outlets, and Brady makes no bones about declaring she would order takeout from there while in hard quarantine before the Australian Open began.

Confined to a hotel bedroom for a fortnight, Brady called in orders for "the first seven days, every single day, sometimes twice a day".

But if delicious deliveries of fast food were on the menu, fast fixes of entertainment emphatically were not.

"I didn't watch one Netflix series just because I knew if I started something then I wouldn't want to do anything else except just lay in bed and watch Netflix," Brady said.

She knows Osaka is 'magnificent'

Why deny it? Brady first faced Osaka on the professional tour at a tiny $50,000 event in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2014.

She beat the 17-year-old Osaka that day but has lost both their encounters since. It was Osaka, on her way to a third grand slam title, who ended Brady's US Open run last September.

When a reporter asked Brady at last year's US Open, 'Obviously Naomi is magnificent. What makes her so magnificent?', Brady slung out a raft of compliments.

And this week she cast her mind back to that 2014 clash, recalling: "I was, like, 'Wow, she hits the ball huge. She's gonna be good. OK, she's got something special.'"

She's not afraid to be afraid, but she's going to own any fears

Brady knows Saturday's final is a big deal and it is not her nature to spout "just another game" cliches, as some might.

"I'll definitely be nervous 100 per cent, but there is no hiding it. I just have to embrace it and enjoy the moment," she said. "I think I have earned the right to be sitting here, to be playing in a final, in a grand slam final."

She wants to find focus and to make the biggest moment of her career even bigger. That's now the Jennifer Brady way.

"But there's gonna be moments, there's gonna be games, there's gonna be points where I'm going to be thinking about, 'Wow, this could be my first grand slam title," Brady said. "I will definitely have those thoughts."

It remains to be seen whether Serena Williams returns to contest the Australian Open in 2022 but amid long-term doubts, Naomi Osaka said "I want her to play forever".

Williams' long-standing bid to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles was put on hold by three-time major champion Osaka, who overpowered the American superstar 6-3 6-4 in the blockbuster Australian Open semi-final.

Not since claiming the 2017 Australian Open trophy has Williams celebrated a slam crown, and the 39-year-old is not getting any younger as she faded into the Melbourne shadows on Thursday.

Williams broke down in tears and cut short her news conference post-match, having been involved in an emotional moment on Rod Laver Arena, where the seven-time Australian Open champion held her hand on her chest and waved to the crowd.

Asked what it means to face Williams as the clock ticks on a legendary career, Osaka – who topped the veteran in the 2018 US Open final – told reporters: "It definitely means a lot.

"Every time I play her, I feel like it's something I'll definitely remember a lot.

"I don't know, it's kind of sad when you say it like that because for me, I want her to play forever. That's the little kid in me."

Japanese star and third seed Osaka will now face Jennifer Brady in Saturday's final as she eyes her second Australian Open crown.

Osaka has gone on to win the title each time after advancing past the round of 16 at a slam – 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and 2020 US Open, while she is in the midst of a 20-match winning streak.

Asked what makes her so hard to beat in finals, Osaka added: "For me, I have this mentality that people don't remember the runners-up. You might, but the winner's name is the one that's engraved.

"I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that's where you sort of set yourself apart. It's the other person who won as many matches as you did. It's something that I think, it's like the biggest fight."

Serena Williams refused to confirm whether she made her last Australian Open appearance after breaking down in tears and leaving her news conference following a semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka.

Bidding to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam titles – having last won a major in 2017 – Williams was overpowered 6-3 6-4 by third seed Osaka in Melbourne on Thursday.

It was Williams' first semi-final defeat at the Australian Open following eight consecutive victories in the final four of the year's opening slam.

The 39-year-old American star cut an emotional figure afterwards on Rod Laver Arena, where she held her hand on her chest and waved to the crowd after fans were allowed to attend following a five-day coronavirus shutdown.

Asked about the moment, seven-time Australian Open champion Williams told reporters: "The Aussie crowd is so amazing, so it was nice to see."

When pressed if it was a Melbourne farewell, Williams replied: "I don't know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn't tell anyone."

A tearful Williams then suddenly ended her news conference after being asked about the match.

Williams was visibly and vocally frustrated against Osaka after seeing an early 2-0 lead slip.

Osaka reeled off five consecutive games and six of the next seven to close out the set before taking complete control against the former world number one.

Williams finished with 24 unforced errors against the three-time slam champion and 2019 Australian Open winner.

At the start of her post-match duties, Williams said: "I wouldn't say I was nervous. The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today.

"Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have won. I could have been up five-love. I just made so many errors."

"I felt like I was hitting well," Williams added. "I was hitting well this whole tournament. Even the first couple games I played well. Even then I had so many opportunities.

"I don't know. Just made too many mistakes there, easy mistakes. Not like I was on the run or anything, they were just easy, easy mistakes."

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