I'm honoured to have played you - Champion Osaka hails Kvitova

The 28-year-old Czech was down a set and a break and was facing three match points when she produced three big serves to hold then level the set and take the final to a decider much to the liking of a packed Rod Laver Arena. Fighting is in Kvitova's DNA and the Czech fired herself up.

The Japanese beat Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2) 5-7 6-4 in Melbourne on Saturday. She subjugated her opponent and emerged victorious 6-4 in the battle of nerves sending the spectators into a meltdown and bagging her second successive Grand Slam after the 2018 US Open title. "There's a lot of stuff I want to say about, like, how I felt and whatever". This equals the 35 games played between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the 1981 final, won by the former.

Kvitova can console herself with a career-best performance at Melbourne Park, where she did not drop a set on her way to the final.

Osaka is trying to win a second consecutive Major trophy to go along with the one she earned at the US Open last September.

That ugly encounter had left Osaka crying during the acceptance speeches, when fans were booing Carlos Ramos, who had been called a "liar" and a "thief" by Williams. The two-time Wimbledon victor will be no.2 in the world thanks to her runner-up trophy, something she never thought might happen.

More poignantly, it was her first such appearance since December 2016, when an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic cut her left hand - the one she uses to play tennis - so badly that hours of surgery were required to fix it. She stayed calm to hold serve then sent a powerful forehand down the line for break point in the next game.

US Open victor Osaka became the first player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to follow her maiden Grand Slam title with victory at the next one.

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

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"For me, every practice and every match I've played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time".

But she fell victim to Osaka's fearless stand-and-deliver groundstrokes in a big-hitting and compelling final.

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

Kvitova's serve, which looked impregnable during the early games of the opening set, suffered a dip as Osaka took up unconventional receiving positions, forcing the Czech to make adjustments.

When Osaka broke to lead 3-2 in the second set and then got to 5-3, the outcome seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

A nervy Osaka opened the match with a double fault but she quickly regrouped and comfortably held.

Kvitova will become the new world number two on Monday, capping an incredible and courageous rise after there were genuine doubts whether she would return following the trauma of nearly three years ago.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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