Jan/19

26

AO Triumph: Naomi Osaka Establishing Domination

By Scoop Malinowski

Naomi Osaka wasn’t satisfied with winning her first Grand Slam major title at the US Open last summer so she went out and won another.

Last night Osaka survived a spirited surge by Petra Kvitova who escaped three match points in the second set to force a deciding third set. But Osaka dug deep and proved again she is a super champion with some original attributes, prevailing 76 57 64.

By winning her first two majors consecutively, she matched a mark last achieved by Jennifer Capriati who scored her first two majors in Australia and Roland Garros in 2001.

Instead of bowing her head beneath the bill of her visor as she did after championship point on Ashe Stadium at US Open, this time Osaka was able to celebrate the monumental accomplishment with no such restraints, as she deserved to, with a big smile and arms raised high in the air.

While the drama was caused last year by her ill-behaved opponent, this year Osaka was forced to overcome a different challenge in the form of action-oriented adversity. Kvitova at her best is an intimidating force to deal with. Her aggressive, long-limbed powerful ball striking blazed through the draw without surrendering a set. However, Osaka was up to the complex task.

This young Japanese/Haitian/American, who once was relegated to the shadows of her older sister Mari when her family first moved to Pembroke Pines from Long Island, New York in 2006, has her own reserves of firepower and fighting spirit may have enough potency, poise and intellect to take over the sport.

Her character and play style are a breath of fresh air, thrilling legendary figures like Cliff Drysdale who said he loves to watch her and also listen to her speak at press conferences. Li Na, the recently elected Hall of Famer praised Osaka as very interesting for her, noting particularly how Osaka is able to not show any information about her competitive feelings and emotions on her face during tense moments of a match.

Osaka has emerged now as a mighty champion with an unique resume. Since winning her first WTA title at Indian Wells last March at age 20, Osaka has added the two majors. It’s quite special and rare that a professional is unable to win any smaller, lower-tier titles early in her career before suddenly exploding to win three of the most prestigious titles in tennis.

But that’s the typical way of Osaka, the eccentric, quirky, thoughtful, easy going, personable young woman. Surely you would not expect a regular, normal tennis career from such an interesting diverse personality, would you?

At 21, she is now the no. 1 ranked player in the world. And her time at the top of tennis appears to be a long term stay rather than a short visit, as has been the way these last few years. One gets the sense Osaka enjoys her new position and status and feels completely natural as the Queen of a sport.

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10 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Osaka’s early pro years. Osaka never competed on the ITF Junior Circuit, the premier international junior tour, and only played in a small number of junior tournaments at any age level.[8] She instead skipped to the ITF Women’s Circuit and played her first qualifying match in October 2011 on her 14th birthday.[9] She then made her professional main draw debut in doubles at her next tournament in March with her sister Mari. Meanwhile, she did not qualify for her first singles main draw until July in her seventh such attempt. Her best result of the 2012 season came at the ITF $10K event in Amelia Island, where she lost to her sister in the semifinals.[1] Osaka has never won a title at the ITF level, only managing to finish runner-up on four occasions.[1] Her first two finals came at the $25K level, one of which was in June 2013 in El Paso, Texas. The other was in March 2014 in Irapuato, Mexico and included a victory over her sister.[1]

    In September 2013, Osaka turned pro shortly before turning 16 years old. She entered her first two qualifying draws on the WTA Tour that same month at the Challenge Bell in Québec and the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. The latter event was her first opportunity to compete professionally in Japan. The following summer, Osaka qualified for her first WTA main draw at the 2014 Stanford Classic. In her tour level debut, she upset world No. 19 Samantha Stosur in a tight match where she saved a match point in the second set tiebreak and came back from a 5–3 deficit in the third set. She was still just 16 years old and ranked No. 406 at the time. Osaka also won a match as a wild card at the Japan Women’s Open, her only other WTA main draw of the year. These victories helped her break into the top 250 of the WTA rankings before the end of the season.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Osaka hired Sascha Bajin as her coach in early 2018 and this is when the big results came. Her previous coaches were David Taylor, Harold Solomon, Patrick Tauma.

  • Hartt · January 26, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Barring serious injury, Osaka should be a dominating player on the women’s side. That does not mean she will win everything in sight, but should be a threat at most tourneys. She has both the tennis skills and the mental toughness to be even more of a superstar than she is now. It is great to see a young woman take charge the way she does. And she is totally charming, so fans want to root for her.

    In the third set of the match I started to think about what the treat would be in honour of her title, and settled on sushi. 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    What really astounds about Osaka was the fact that she did not UNRAVEL through the Serena chaos at the US Open. All that drama and craziness would have derailed most players, if not all other players. That same week I saw Djokovic vs Delpo, Djok was up a set but behind in the second. They had a long game in the second, at least five deuces, all long brutal physical rallies, 20 shots each. Djokovic got it back to deuce, then created a fake drama about the balls. Like one was missing or one was flat. A slight ten second delay with the umpire conversation. Then when play resumed that little drama derailed Delpo who missed the first ball return and then the first ball on next point and just like that, the game was over, Djokovic took it. Delpo fell for that little ball scheme. It changed the match, 20-30 ball rallies, furious battle, five or six or seven deuces. Then the little ball trick and Delpo fell for it. And Osaka totally kept her nerve through that half hour of Serena chaos. That was very special by Osaka, and she did it in her first MAJOR FINAL a vs the GOAT. This girl is very unique. On top of that, now she’s loved by everyone for her quirky personality and talent and perhaps most of all, how she handled that Serena chaos. No one will ever forget that, even more memorable than the match.

  • Wayne Bradford · January 26, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Naomi is a great champion and should win about 15 Slams or so easily.

    We are still in the infancy of her career and the media is on her side. In about four or five years, they will start to tear her apart and it will be interesting to see how she handles that.

    It is up to the American girls like Collins, Stephens and Keys to prove they are at her level now. It won’t be easy.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    I disagree, Osaka is on good terms with the media and it’s a mutually good relationship. I don’t see Osaka evolving into a nutcase. I think she will always be a media darling, like Evert, Venus, Manny Pacquiao, Muhammad Ali, some athletes just get along with the media perfectly and I think Osaka can be one of those rare ones.

  • H · January 26, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Two Canadian players will be in the finals at the Oracle Challenger in Newport Beach. Brayden Schnur beat Donald Young 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 in 2 hours, 20 minutes. He will face Taylor Fritz in the final. I had not realised that Young had dropped so low in the rankings, he is No. 231 now. Brayden played tennis at the University of North Carolina for 2 1/2 years, so only turned pro a couple years ago. Winning against Fritz will be a big challenge for him.

    When that match finally ended, Bianca Andreescu played against Tatjana Maria on the same court. It was a close match, and I was surprised when Bianca actually won, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 in 2 hours, 45 minutes. I spent way too much time today looking at a small computer screen. Bianca will play Jessica Pegula in the final.

  • Hartt · January 26, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Once again, I hit “H” instead of “Hartt.’ Just remember it is the same person. 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 26, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Hartt or H, this Brayden Schnur guy keeps going up and scoring improving results. He beat Kozlov last year and a few other names. To reach a Challenger final means he can reach a main tour final… and so on.

  • Hartt · January 26, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Brayden beat Mackenzie McDonald in the R16 of this tourney. I first became aware of him a few years ago when I saw him win a qualies match at the Rogers Cup. Had never heard of the youngster, this was even before he went to university, but was very impressed.

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