Osaka wins ti­tle, now ranked No. 1

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - From C1

was no jeer­ing from the con­fused crowd. No con­tro­versy. No chaos. No shar­ing the spot­light.

Clearly mark­ing her­self as ten­nis’ bright new star, Osaka is the first woman to win two ma­jor cham­pi­onships in a row since Wil­liams picked up four straight in 2014-15.

Al­most didn’t hap­pen. Osaka held three match points in the se­cond set at 5-3, love-40 as Kvi­tova served. But Osaka couldn’t close it out. In­stead, she com­pletely lost her way.

That al­lowed Kvi­tova to come back and make a match of it, reel­ing off five games in a row to take the se­cond set and go up 1-0 in the third.

At that point, Kvi­tova would say later, she fig­ured it was go­ing to keep go­ing her way.

“In the end,” she said, “it wasn’t.”

Af­ter Kvi­tova dou­ble-faulted to of­fer up a break point at 1-all, Osaka con­verted it with a cross­court back­hand win­ner. There was still more work to be done, of course, and some additional drama when it be­gan rain­ing at the changeover right be­fore Osaka tried to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third set.

This time, Osaka would not fal­ter. She would not let this lead dis­ap­pear.

“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.”

Osaka was born in Ja­pan — her mother is Ja­panese, her fa­ther is Haitian — and she moved to New York at age 3. Now she’s based in Florida and has dual cit­i­zen­ship. Osaka al­ready was the first player rep­re­sent­ing Ja­pan — fe­male or male — to win a Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tle. Now she also is the first to top the WTA or ATP rank­ings.

At 21, Osaka is the youngest No. 1 in nearly a decade; Caro­line Woz­ni­acki was 20 when she first as­cended to that spot in 2010.

And to think, a year ago, Osaka was ranked 72nd.

What a climb. What quick climb.

Kvi­tova was play­ing in her first Grand Slam fi­nal since win­ning Wim­ble­don in 2014 — and the first since she was stabbed in the hand by an in­truder at her home in the Czech Repub­lic a lit­tle more than two years ago.

Kvi­tova needed surgery, missed the first 4½ months of the 2017 sea­son, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Open, and couldn’t be sure she’d ever get back to the top of ten­nis.

“You’ve been through so much,” Osaka told Kvi­tova dur­ing the tro­phy cer­e­mony. “I’m re­ally hon­ored to have played you in the fi­nal of a Grand Slam.”


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