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American Jennifer Brady reaches first major final at Australian Open
The 25-year-old is the first former female college player to reach a Grand Slam final since the 1983 Australian Open, after battling past Karolina Muchova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, on Thursday in Melbourne.
Published Feb 18, 2021
American Jennifer Brady held her nerve and closed out Karolina Muchova on her fifth match point in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to reach her first Grand Slam final.
Having advanced to her first major semifinal at the US Open last summer, the former UCLA star is the first female college tennis player to get through to a major final since Kathy Jordan at the 1983 Australian Open.
“I can’t feel my legs,” she said in her on-court interview.
“My legs are shaking, my heart is racing.”
The No. 25-seeded Muchova had pulled off some major upsets to get to the final four, beating No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova in the third round and No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinals. And after dropping the opening set against Brady, she played an almost flawless second set—making just one unforced error—and kept that momentum going early in the third, holding serve at love for 1-0.
That’s when Brady found her very best tennis, though, winning three games in a row to go up a break at 3-1. The two held from there until it was all over, though there was a dramatic finish—a 14-minute, six-deuce final game where Brady missed her first four match points and staved off three break points.
Muchova hit one last forehand unforced error on match point No. 5.
Brady said afterwards she came out for the match feeling a little flat.
“I was super excited, but at the same time I was pretty flat footed,” she described. “My legs felt fresh, but at the same time they just weren’t moving. I felt like I was stuck in the mud.
“I didn’t really pick up my intensity until the third set.”
The No. 22-seeded Brady’s reward for her one-hour, 55-minute victory over Muchova is a rematch with the player who beat her in the 2020 US Open semifinals: the No. 3 seed, Naomi Osaka.
“I’m obviously pretty excited to be in the finals here at the Australian Open. It’s an incredible achievement,” Brady said. “I think it’ll be a really tough match. Obviously she’s won a few Grand Slams. We had a tough match at the US Open in the semifinals. I think she even said that it was one of her top two matches, which was a little bit unfortunate for me at the time.
“I think it’ll be a really good match.”
Osaka won that terrific encounter in three sets, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3, as well as the pair’s only other tour-level meeting in the first round of Charleston—on green clay—in 2018, 6-4, 6-4.
Brady has two career wins over Top 10 players, both in the early months of 2020 before the tour was suspended due to COVID-19. She beat No. 1 Barty in Brisbane, then No. 6 Elina Svitolina in Dubai.
If she manages to take out Osaka, she'll be the first female college player to win a major since Barbara Jordan—the aforementioned Kathy Jordan's sister—achieved the feat at the 1979 Australian Open.