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UK News Desk

Australian Open: Petra Kvitova & Naomi Osaka meet with top ranking at stake

Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon 2011 and 2014 & Naomi Osaka at US Open 2018

Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 08:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.

Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova meet in the Australian Open final on Saturday amid high emotional stakes and with the world number one ranking on the line.

Osaka, who received her US Open trophy in tears, and to boos, after Serena Williams’ meltdown, can become the first player since 2001 to follow her maiden Grand Slam title with another.

Kvitova, meanwhile, is in a first major final since being stabbed in 2016.

The winner will replace Simona Halep as world number one.

The Melbourne match between fourth seed Osaka and eighth seed Kvitova, who have never met before, starts at 08:30 GMT and you can follow the match live on the BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 live.

Japanese 21-year-old Osaka is aiming to become the first player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win back-to-back majors after a maiden triumph.

She hit 15 aces and 56 winners as she beat Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who knocked out 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams in the semi-finals.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, 28, eased to a 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 win over unseeded American Danielle Collins.

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli said both finalists are “playing at their peak” but that Osaka has the edge over Czech Kvitova.

“Based on the level of tennis I saw in the semi-finals then I’d pick Osaka as the winner,” Bartoli said.

“And I think you have to say the player who has lifted a Slam most recently is the slight favourite.”

Osaka v Kvitova – how they compare
N Osaka (Jpn) P Kvitova (Cze)
Ranking 4 6
WTA titles 2 26
Finals record 2-2 26-7
Time on court 8 hours 51 mins 7 hour 5 mins
Sets dropped in Melbourne 3 0

Osaka won the US Open in September by beating Williams in a dramatic final, although it was somewhat overshadowed by the American’s row with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams appealed for calm in her runner-up speech, asking her supporters to “give credit” to Osaka’s achievement, while the Japanese player pulled her visor down to hide her tears during the trophy ceremony.

Four months later, Osaka is back in another major final after becoming the first Japanese player to reach the Melbourne showpiece.

Osaka says she “loves” Grand Slams as she aims to replicate Capriati’s achievement almost two decades ago.

“When you’re little, you watch the Grand Slams, you watch all the players play the legendary matches here,” Osaka said.

“For me, this is the most important tournament. There’s only four of them a year, so of course I want to do the best that I can.”

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams

Kvitova has previously said she is “fortunate to be alive” after she was stabbed in her left playing hand during a robbery at her home.

She had surgery and made a remarkable return to the court in May 2017, going on to win the Birmingham International title a month later.

“It’s probably a little bit more special after everything I have been through,” Kvitova said.

“I think it’s different to the other finals, but I don’t think I’m more nervous.

“There have been moments and days where I didn’t really think very positively that I can be in the final again.

“That’s probably the best thing that I really proved, that I didn’t give up.”

The facts you need to know

  • Osaka began last year ranked 72 in the world
  • She reached the fourth round in Melbourne but was beaten by eventual finalist Simona Halep
  • Kvitova was ranked 28 in the world in January 2018 but lost in the Australian Open first round
  • This year she has dropped just 28 games on the way to the final
  • Kvitova has not lost a final since the Luxembourg Open in October 2016 to Monica Niculescu
  • Since then, the Czech has won eight finals in a row
  • Osaka is the youngest back-to-back Grand Slam finalist since Ana Ivanovic in 2008 – Ivanovic reached the Australian Open final and won the French Open that year
  • Should she win, Osaka would be the first Asian world number one

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BBC Sport – Sport

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