The trouble for Naomi Osaka at Grand Slam tournaments comes in Week 1. Get beyond that stage at the hard-court majors, though, and start preparing to etch her name on the trophy.
Osaka won her fourth title in her past eight appearances at a Slam, emerging from what initially was a tight Australian Open final and pulling away by grabbing six consecutive games to beat Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday.
With strong serving that produced six aces, Osaka improved to 4-0 in major finals, the first woman to start her career that way since Monica Seles did it 30 years ago. For Osaka, that is part of a 12-0 record so far in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals at the majors.
"She played really well when she had to," Brady said. "She hit good shots when she needed them."
Osaka, the 2020 AP Female Athlete of the Year, is also on a 21-match winning streak that dates to last season. That includes a championship at last year's U.S. Open. She also won the U.S. Open in 2018, and the Australian Open in 2019.
"Tonight it wasn't meant to be," Brady said after participating in her first Grand Slam final at age 25. "Hopefully there's many more."
The 23-year-old Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3.
She was seeded No. 3 at Melbourne Park and is now assured of moving up to No. 2.
Only two active women own more Slam titles than Osaka: Serena Williams, with 23, and her sister, Venus, with seven.
Next task for Osaka is improving on clay and grass: She's never been past the third round at the French Open or Wimbledon.
"She's such an inspiration to us all, and what she's doing for the game is amazing in getting the sport out there," said Brady, an American who was seeded 22nd. "I hope young girls at home are watching and inspired by what she's doing."
Brady had to go through a hard quarantine for 15 days when she arrived in Australia in January because someone on her flight tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived.
This was a big step up in competition during this tournament for Brady, who had not faced anyone ranked in the Top 25 nor anyone who previously appeared in so much as one Grand Slam semifinal. Brady's only previous final four appearance at a major came at the U.S. Open in September, when she lost to Osaka in three sets.
She wasn't able to push the champ as much this time.
"I told everyone that would listen that you're going to be a problem - and I was right," Osaka told Brady with a chuckle, after asking her whether she prefers to be called Jenny or Jennifer. "To see your growth over the past few months is really cool for me to see."
During the pre-match coin toss, the silver women's trophy stood on a clear, plastic pedestal not far from Osaka on her side of the net. After beating Serena Williams in the semifinals, Osaka had made her intentions clear: "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." And she keeps making sure that name is hers.
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