Kvitova vs Osaka: Besides winning Aus Open title, winner will be the new world No.1
Naomi Osaka stormed into the Australian Open final to set up a battle with Czech comeback queen Petra Kvitova for the Australian Open title and world number one ranking.
Naomi Osaka stormed into the Australian Open final after defeating Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach her second successive Grand Slam decider after a breakthrough triumph at last year's US Open.
Osaka took the first set then held off a barnstorming comeback by Pliskova, who survived four set points to eliminate Serena Williams but could not manage another miracle turnaround less than 24 hours later.
"I expected it, I expected a really hard battle," Osaka said of Pliskova's attempted return from a set and a break down to extend a 10-match winning streak.
"Somehow I made it. I just told myself to regroup in the third set and try as hard as I could no matter what, and I managed to win."
Naomi Osaka said playing successive Slam final is "little bit unreal" but she also mentioned that her hard work in the off-season was bearing fruit.
Osaka reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park in 2018 in her third appearance at the year's opening Grand Slam. This time she has become the first Japanese to reach the final.
"It's a little bit unreal," she told reporters after her victory. "At the same time I realise the work that I put in during the off-season.
"Every match that I played, I tried my best. It just felt like it was a continuous effort.
"It's sort of the reality I am in right now, so I can only keep going forward from here."
Having cleared the hurdle of winning her first Grand Slam title in New York last year, Osaka said her experience and confidence was helping her break new ground.
Petra Kvitova will compete in her first Grand Slam final in five years after ending the fairytale run of unseeded American Danielle Collins with a decisive 7-6(2), 6-0 victory.
"It means everything. I really worked very hard, finally I made it deep in this tournament," Kvitova said in her on-court interview.
"I am going to enjoy the final whatever happens. I am very, very happy.
"The first set was very tight. I was very nervous. I am glad I came through the tiebreak."
Petra Kvitova was attacked by a home intruder in 2016 that she struggled to be in a room by herself, let alone have thoughts of returning to the tour as a Grand Slam contender.
At the Australian Open, Kvitova came within one match of crowning one of the bravest comebacks in tennis.
Kvitova missed the 2017 tournament while recovering from surgery on the stab wound to her racket hand she suffered during the attack.
It was much more than a case of overcoming a physical injury, however, with the attack having exacted a heavy mental toll on the twice Wimbledon champion.
"To be honest, I think not very many people believed that I could do that again, to stand on the court and play tennis and kind of play on this level," she said.
Naomi Osaka-Petra Kvitova
Naomi Osaka's title clash against double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will also decide the next number one in women's tennis, with the winner replacing Romanian Simona Halep, who has held the spot for 48 consecutive weeks.