How it happened: Naomi Osaka beats Jen Brady to win fourth major title

How it happened: Naomi Osaka beats Jen Brady to win fourth major title

Third seed Naomi Osaka defeated No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, on Saturday night in Melbourne to win the 2021 Australian Open and increase her win streak to 21 matches.

Third seed Naomi Osaka defeated No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3, in Saturday's Australian Open championship match to become just the third player in the Open Era to win their first four major finals. Osaka is now a two-time champion at both the US Open and Australian Open, adding to her 2019 triumph at Melbourne Park.

Read below for a complete rundown of how the match played out, and what the players said afterwards in our live blog.

Osaka in press

On taking control of the match:

"I thought that was a very uncharacteristic shot from her, like, to miss that. So my mind just began thinking that she was either felt really nervous or really pressured, and I should capitalize on that by trying to win as many games as I could, like, pace-wise. I feel like once a person loses the first set doubts start to creep in, so that's when you really should like put your foot on the gas. So that's what I was trying to do in the second set."

On the contrast of winning here the first time in 2019:

"I think there is a difference in my emotions. Actually the last time I won here, I was kind of playing off anger, in a way. Just because I felt like I wanted to stamp my place on the tour. So I really wanted to win back-to-back US Open and Australian [Opens]. And this time around I'm more I would say at peace with where I am, and I'm honestly just happy to be playing a Grand Slam in a pandemic."

On greater aspirations:

"I feel like the biggest thing that I want to achieve is, this is going to sound really odd, but hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favorite player or something. For me, I think that's the coolest thing that could ever happen to me. I think I have those feelings of watching my favorite players. Unfortunately I didn't get to play Li Na, but, yeah, I just think that that's how the sport moves forward."

Brady's reaction

On how the first set got away at the end:

"In the one point, I think I went for a second serve T, double-faulted. I was just trying to mix it up, trying to do something different, because I just felt like I was kicking wide, kicking wide second serve. My first-serve percentage was only at 40%, so I felt rushed, like she was applying pressure. The set point where I missed the forehand in the net, it obviously didn't go as planned. I probably wasn't completely focused on that specific shot. More just in the fact that I just let a 40-15 lead slip."

On her biggest takeaway Down Under this year: 

"I think I belong at this level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable. It's within reach. Playing out there, obviously I was nervous, didn't go my way, but at the same time coming off court, I was, like, 'Okay, that feels a little bit normal.' It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like. If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn't think it's possible or it would feel it's, like, going to Mars.

Snapshots of Osaka's latest moment in time

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Trophy ceremony speeches

Last summer, Brady told me in her Lexington champion chat that she was "more of a troll" when it came to social media. It may have been a happy accident, but Osaka provided her own troll-worthy moment. 

Osaka: "Do you like to be called Jenny or Jennifer?"

Brady: "Jenny."

Osaka: "Firstly I want to congratulate Jennifer..."


Second set: Osaka wins, 6-3

9:09 p.m.—Notable STAT: This marks the eighth time in the Open Era that a WTA player won the Australian Open after being down match point during the tournament, and fourth time since 2014.

9:04 p.m.—OSAKA WINS! A confident close clinches her fourth major title from four major finals, a 21st consecutive match win and second triumph Down Under. 

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9:01 p.m.—Pushed to deuce, Brady holds and will force Osaka to serve this out on her racquet.

8:55 p.m.—The third seed is four points away from a fourth major title. Osaka shook off losing two extended rallies where her forehand clipped the net and fell wide.

8:51 p.m.—Quality hold at love for Brady. Osaka still leads 4-2, how will she respond after this slight shift in momentum?

8:48 p.m.—Brady keeps herself in it by breaking. Osaka had a game point for 5-0, but great defense from the 25-year-old enabled her to get on the scoreboard.

8:42 p.m.—Osaka now up a DOUBLE break, serving at 4-0. Brady's execution has certainly dropped, with another three unforced errors in that last game. But Osaka is applying pressure on return, having put eight of 10 in play this set.

8:38 p.m.—The title is within reach for Osaka, who closes out the third game with an ace down the T.

8:35 p.m.—An early break for the 2019 champ. A resounding crosscourt backhand handed Osaka two break points, and she took the first for a 2-0 advantage when Brady mishit a forehand.

8:33 p.m.—Osaka holds to kick off set two. Will the benefit of serving first once again prove to be a significant advantage?

First set: Osaka wins, 6-4

8:28 p.m.—From 40-15 down, Osaka wins five consecutive points to snag a one-set lead. Brady appeared to have much better control at the line early in the game, but a double fault brought her to deuce, and the three-time major champion seized the golden opportunity to strike. Brady cracked with two unforced errors, including a sitting forehand, to end the set in disappointment.

8:23 p.m.—Osaka battles for 5-4. Just like Brady a game earlier, Osaka couldn't find her first serve and needed to fend off a break point after a terrific backland one-handed flick lob from the No. 22 seed ended a 30-30 point.

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8:18 p.m.—Brady wipes away a break point, 4-4 now. Osaka will surely want the forehand she netted at 30-40 back. The American let out a "one first serve!", before hitting her second ace and eventually taking the 12-point game.

8:11 p.m.—Good reset from Osaka to hold. She fell behind 15-30 due to another pair of unforced errors, but brought it home with her first serve.

8:09 p.m.—Back even at 3-3. Two compact winners from Brady to start and two unforced errors from Osaka to finish. Brady's second serve kicker on the ad side has been effective thus far. 

8:05 p.m.—Brady breaks back for 2-3. Good depth on return from Brady put the No. 3 seed under greater pressure. Osaka then double-faulted to give Brady her first break point chance, and she capitalized on the longest rally thus far, 10 shots, when her opponent's crosscourt backhand fell well short.

8:00 p.m.—A break for the Japanese. After hitting a forehand winner to start the game, Osaka watched Brady toss in two double faults to drop serve at love.

7:56 p.m.—Osaka leads 2-1, on serve. Not much hitting required thus far. Of the 19 points played, 16 have lasted four shots or fewer.

7:54 p.m.—Nervous moments from Brady saw a 40-0 lead evaporate, but she recovers to avoid going down an immediate break.

7:47 p.m.—What a start. A love hold with two aces from Osaka.

7:41 p.m.—The players are warming up. Never gets old seeing Osaka do this in her tunnel walk. She won the toss and elected to serve.

Setting the scene

If the 2020 US Open semifinals are anything to go by, Saturday night's Australian Open final between No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka and No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady should be an absolute treat to watch unfold.

Osaka, the 2019 champion, is bidding to become the fourth active WTA player to lift four major trophies, following Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters, and seventh overall when including the ATP's Big 3. The world No. 3 has been nearly unstoppable at the hard-court majors since capturing her first Slam at the 2018 US Open, winning 32 of her past 34 matches to go with a perfect 3-0 mark in finals. In the round of 16 here, Osaka staved off two match points to battle past Garbine Muguruza.

Brady has also gone on a tear of her own. Between last year's run at Flushing Meadows and now her first major final at Melbourne Park, the 25-year-old American has won 23 of 27 sets. The former UCLA standout is aiming to become the first female college tennis player to triumph on the Grand Slam stage since 1979, when Barbara Jordan defeated countrywoman Sharon Walsh. No matter the outcome, Brady is guaranteed to crack the Top 15, and can reach No. 12 if she follows in the footsteps of 2020 winner Sofia Kenin.

In addition to winning their US Open clash, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3, Osaka also won the pair's other tour-level encounter at Charleston in straight sets three years ago. Brady took an early contest in 2014 at an ITF $50k event in New Braunfels, Texas.