After playing arguably the WTA match of the year at the U.S. Open semi-finals in 2020, Naomi Osaka and Jennifer Brady will do battle once again, this time for the title at Melbourne Park.
Between the two of them, they have only dropped three sets all fortnight. There is no doubt that these two are amongst the best players of the tournament and will deservedly be vying for the title.
Despite Osaka being a three-time Grand Slam Champion and Brady only playing her first Slam final, this will hardly be a partisan affair.
When the two met at Flushing Meadows in 2020, Osaka ousted Brady 7-6, 3-6, 6-3; the eventual tournament winner said that it was “probably in the top two matches I've played in my life.” The match was a hard-hitting affair, with both players striking the ball at the highest level.
Let’s try and separate the pair.
Osaka is conceivably the best female tennis player in the world right now – especially on the hard courts. She’s now won 20 matches in a row and in her most recent win, she defeated an in-form Serena Williams without too much trouble in the semi-finals. Anything Williams did, Osaka did better, and that has been what the World No. 3 has done all tournament.
Osaka has a winning mentality and that is a major factor in her rise to the top; "people don't remember the runner-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 set yourself apart.”
Even with the winning mentality, Osaka knows Brady is by no means a walkover.
“For me, it's not really surprising at all to see her in another semi or another final,” Osaka said about Brady.
Making a Grand Slam final is an achievement on its own, but to make your first Grand Slam final after just completing two weeks of hard hotel quarantine?
World No. 24 Brady is in great form. She has won nine out her past 10 matches. Ever since making changes to her team and training base (she now works with Michael Geserer in Germany), the American has soared up the WTA rankings. Despite never sitting inside the world’s top 20, that is bound to change this year.
“I had a bit of a temper as a kid. Wasn't really mentally the toughest. So, I think that has kind of just shifted my whole career, just being able to stay in tough moments, close out tough matches, just fight my way back regardless of the score,” Brady told the media in regard to finding her winning ways over the past 12 months.
Despite playing great tennis, Brady has had a dream run to the final as she hasn’t faced a top-25 player all tournament, raising the question of whether Brady has what it takes to win.
Brady will have a difficult time controlling her forehand (which is her biggest weapon), due to Osaka’s depth and pace off the baseline, but the American has a lot of power and can dictate the play if she gets in the right groove.
Osaka will look to go on an outright attack from the get-go. The 2019 Australian Open Champion will attempt to set the tone and let Brady know who is boss.
On Saturday night, a new champion will be crowned or an old one will regain her throne.
One player will set themselves apart – both Brady and Osaka have an opportunity to do it, the ball is in their court.