Naomi Osaka tops Jennifer Brady at Australian Open for 4th Grand Slam title

  • Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup aloft after defeating Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open on Saturday (late Friday night PST) in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka prepares to serve to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a forehand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a forehand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a backhand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a forehand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady reacts after losing a point to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her match against United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady serves to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady serves to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a backhand return to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady hits a backhand return to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Mark Dadswell)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka serves to United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • United States’ Jennifer Brady reacts after losing a point to Japan’s Naomi Osaka during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady during the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open on Saturday (late Friday night PST) in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after defeating United States’ Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka, right, holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup defeating United States Jennifer Brady, left, in the women’s singles finalat the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka kisses the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating United States Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

  • Japan’s Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating United States Jennifer Brady in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The trouble for Naomi Osaka at Grand Slam tournaments comes in Week 1. Get beyond that 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 (late Friday night PST).

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 and beyond at the majors.

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.

The 23-year-old Osaka was born in Japan and moved to the United States with her family when she was 3.

Brady is a 25-year-old former UCLA standout who was playing in her first Grand Slam final. She 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.

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.

It was cooler than it’s been in Melbourne recently, with the temperature down below 70 degrees and a breeze that made serve tosses difficult for both players, who would catch the ball instead of hit it and say, “Sorry!”

The stadium was allowed to be at half capacity – about 7,500 fans – after spectators were barred entirely earlier in the tournament for five days during a COVID-19 lockdown.

In the men’s final Sunday (7:30 p.m. local time, 12:30 a.m., late Saturday night PST), top-seeded Novak Djokovic will be seeking his ninth Australian Open championship and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall. He faces No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev, who carries a 20-match winning streak into his second major final.

Only two active women own more Slam titles than Osaka: Williams, with 23, and her sister, Venus, with seven.

The next task for Osaka is improving on clay and grass: She’s never been past the third round at the French Open or Wimbledon.

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.

On Saturday, the final was locked at 4-all, when Brady used an on-the-run lob winner that she punctuated by waving her arms to request more noise from the crowd. That earned a break point – convert that, and she would serve for the opening set.

But Osaka erased the chance with a cross-court forehand winner, and two errors by Brady made it 5-4.

Osaka then broke to grab the set, helped by Brady’s double-fault and a netted forehand on a short ball to end it.

That was part of the six-game run that put Osaka ahead 4-0 in the second and she was on her way.

More to come on this story.

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Roger Federer holds off Frances Tiafoe, 19, in 5 sets to advance at U.S. Open

  • Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, reacts after breaking Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during a first-round match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. Federer won the match. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, reacts after breaking Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during a first-round match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. Federer won the match. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, returns a shot to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, returns a shot to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, of Switzerland, returns a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, returns to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, returns to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, of Switzerland, stretches to return a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, of Switzerland, stretches to return a shot to Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, during the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, right, of Switzerland, and Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, shake hands after Federer won their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, right, of Switzerland, and Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, shake hands after Federer won their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Roger Federer, of Switzerland, celebrates after defeating Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    Roger Federer, of Switzerland, celebrates after defeating Frances Tiafoe, of the United States, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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NEW YORK — Roger Federer already has dropped two more sets at the U.S. Open than he did during his entire two weeks en route to the title at Wimbledon.

Worried about a recent back problem that kept him from getting ready the way he usually does for a Grand Slam tournament, Federer had to overcome an early deficit and a late lapse Tuesday night to edge 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4, in a compelling first-round contest under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof.

”I didn’t have the preparation I was hoping to get,” Federer said. ”I always knew I was going to come in feeling rusty or not great.”

The third-seeded Federer, whose most recent of five championships at Flushing Meadows came in 2008, was broken in the first game and dropped the opening set of the topsy-turvy match. He then appeared to take control by grabbing eight of nine games to seize the second and third sets. But he let that lead slip away. There was more trouble when Federer served for the match leading 5-3 in the fifth and got broken.

”I was quite up and down,” Federer said, acknowledging that he was cautious with his footwork and had some trouble seeing the ball properly. “I was misjudging distance, being a bit cautious.”

Tiafoe’s take: ”He won by the skin of his teeth.”

Federer’s initial match point came at 5-3, 40-30, but Tiafoe staved that off, then broke. He produced a cross-court forehand winner at an unbelievable angle to earn the chance, before converting it with a terrific forehand passing winner down the line. Tiafoe roared and pumped a fist, yelling to the crowd, which included his twin brother Franklin, and sprinted to the sideline for the changeover.

When he had to come back out and serve, Tiafoe was a bit flat. Federer wasted his second match point with a netted backhand. On the third – with Federer’s wife, Mirka, covering her eyes in the stands – Tiafoe hit a stumbling forehand into the net.

”In these best-of-five-set matches,” Federer said, ”you have a lot of lives sometimes.”

It was the 36-year-old Federer’s 79th career victory at the U.S. Open, equaling Andre Agassi for second-most. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 98.

Federer played with the roof shut at Ashe for the first time. He missed last year’s tournament, when the retractable cover made its debut, because he took off the second half of 2016 to let his surgically repaired left knee and a bad back fully heal.

”It felt like people were happy to see me again,” Federer said.

In 2017, he is 36-3 with five titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, where Federer won every set he played across seven matches while collecting his record eighth trophy at the All England Club and 19th Grand Slam championship overall.

For more than a half-hour Tuesday, it appeared as if Federer was still dealing with the after-effects of having tweaked his back during a loss in the hard-court final at Montreal this month. He sat out the following week’s tournament at Cincinnati.

At least, Federer said, his back was not in pain Tuesday.

“To get through a five-setter, you have to be OK, somehow,” Federer said. “So I believe this is going to give me great confidence in the body and also in my game. My hope and my belief is that it’s only going to get better from here.”

“It was more than a test, it was a good one. It was exciting.”

Tiafoe, who is from Maryland and now is based in Florida, is ranked 70th and has never been past the second round at a major tournament. Tiafoe was profiled on an HBO “Real Sports” segment earlier this year. His parents fled the war-torn West African nation of Sierra Leone before settling in Maryland and his father worked as the janitor at a tennis academy.

This was his second match against Federer. Tiafoe pushed Federer to a first-set tiebreaker when they faced each other in March at the Miami Masters before losing in two sets.

“He is the greatest of all time,” Tiafoe said after the match. “It’s something I’ll think about for a while. Eventually, I’ll win more than I lose these.”

 

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