For the second straight major tournament, Naomi Osaka will play for a Grand Slam trophy.
The No.4 seed and US Open champion defeated Karolina Pliskova at the Australian Open on Thursday, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to reach her second career and consecutive major final, booking a date with two-time major champion Petra Kvitova.
The Japanese No.1 broke to love in the third game of the final set, saving break points in a pair of games to hold off the comeback effort of the No.7 seed, who had rallied from an early break down in the second set to send the semifinal match the distance.
“I don’t necessarily think I played the best I’ve ever played. I mean, for me, what I take away from this is that I never gave up, and that’s something that I’m really proud of myself for,” Osaka said.
“There are moments in the match where I thought, like, ‘This is getting really close.’ I just thought I wouldn’t forgive myself if I had a little dip or a moment of accepting defeat.
“I love Grand Slams. This is, like, a place where I think is worth all the training.
“When you’re little, you watch the Grand Slams, you watch all the players play, like, the legendary matches here.
“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 here.”
The Czech was looking to pull off her second comeback effort in as many days, having saved four match points to stun Serena Williams from 5-1 down in the final set of their quarterfinal match on Wednesday.
“I felt like she could end the point whenever she wanted to. At the same time, I played Su-Wei [Hsieh], and I did feel like Su-Wei did hit the ball harder than Karolina,” Osaka assessed of the match.
“I thought that Karolina was playing a bit — she wasn’t making that much unforced errors. She wasn’t trying to go for much. It felt like she was waiting for me to do something most of the time.
“For me, at this tournament, I wasn’t really focused on winning, winning. I just wanted to make sure I tried 100% on every point. I’m still here, so thankfully that’s working out.”
With Grand Slam glory on the line, Osaka and Kvitova will face off for the first time in their careers for the right to hoist the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
“We’ve never played before. I think to have the opportunity to play her for the first time in a final of a Grand Slam is something very amazing,” Osaka said.
“I’ve watched her play the Wimbledon finals. I know what a great player she is. It’s definitely going to be very tough for me.” [WTA]