Osaka wins Down Under


TENNIS

Wire Reports



Japan's Naomi Osaka arrives at Rod Laver Arena for the women's singles final against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Japan's Naomi Osaka arrives at Rod Laver Arena for the women's singles final against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)


Japan's Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)


Japan's Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)


Now No. 1, Osaka wins majors to strains of Jay Rock’s ‘Win’

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Tennis Writer

Sunday, January 27

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Like the 21-year-old she is, Naomi Osaka stepped into Rod Laver Arena for the Australian Open final with a cellphone in her right hand and music in both ears.

The headphones she wore carried the swirling brass, bouncing beat and boastful lyrics of Jay Rock’s “Win,” the same pre-match song Osaka listened to throughout the tournament — and at last year’s U.S. Open, too.

“You might wanna keep score,” the rapper says. “I win, win, win, win.”

Right now, that’s how Osaka is living at tennis’ most important events. Her championship at Melbourne Park, via a 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Petra Kvitova on Saturday night, gave Osaka two straight Grand Slam trophies.

Just a few hours later, she found herself discussing such matters as what her goals are now — answer: winning the upcoming hard-court stops in Indian Wells and Miami — and whether it’s too soon to think about being halfway to collecting four consecutive majors.

“The way the tennis world is, there’s always the next tournament, the next Slam, and we all just want to keep training hard and winning more,” said Osaka, who was born in Japan and moved to the U.S. at age 3. “So I’m not really sure if I’m satisfied.”

Heady stuff for someone who already has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

A year ago, Osaka was ranked 72nd.

She had lost by the third round in seven of her eight appearances at Grand Slam tournaments. The lone exception was a fourth-round run at the Australian Open in January 2018. That’s as far as she’d been by then.

So Osaka was getting impatient.

Look at her now.

She is the first woman with back-to-back major championships since Serena Williams — the player Osaka beat in the U.S. Open final last September — captured four in a row from 2014 to 2015.

Osaka also guaranteed that she will ascend to No. 1 in the WTA rankings for the first time Monday, making her the youngest player to hold the top spot since Caroline Wozniacki was 20 in 2010.

Does it feel as if this all happened really quickly?

“I mean, to me, it doesn’t. I guess looking from the outside, from your guys’ view, it does,” Osaka said. “For me, every practice and every match that I’ve played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time. But I’m aware of all the work that I put in. I know all the sacrifices that every player does to stay at this level. I mean, in my opinion, it didn’t feel fast. It felt kind of long.”

Maybe. But her growth as a player and a competitor has been so swift.

She won four three-setters in Melbourne.

She beat a trio of top-10 women.

Then there was the way Osaka pulled herself together after failing to convert three championship points at 5-3 in the second set against Kvitova, much as she ignored all the chaos surrounding the final against Williams at Flushing Meadows.

“As a whole, this tournament was very eye-opening for me,” Osaka said as Saturday turned to Sunday in Melbourne. “I had a lot of matches that were very tough and I was behind in some of them. I think it showed me that I could win matches from behind, just on willpower alone.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Lucky 7: Djokovic routs Nadal for record 7th Australian Open

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Tennis Writer

Sunday, January 27

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was so good, so relentless, so flawless, that Rafael Nadal never stood a chance.

Djokovic reduced one of the greats of the game to merely another outclassed opponent — just a guy, really — and one so out of sorts that Nadal even whiffed on one of his famous forehands entirely.

In a breathtakingly mistake-free performance that yielded a remarkably lopsided result, the No. 1-ranked Djokovic overwhelmed Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday night to win a record seventh Australian Open championship and a third consecutive Grand Slam title, raising his count to 15 overall.

“Under the circumstances,” Djokovic said, “it was truly a perfect match.”

No one who saw it would disagree.

Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda, said: “I would describe it as dominance.”

Nadal’s take? “An amazing level of tennis.”

“Unbelievable,” said Nadal’s coach, Carlos Moya. “Novak probably could have won, no matter who the opponent was.”

That Djokovic would produce 34 winners and only nine unforced errors was impressive enough. That it came against Nadal — who is ranked No. 2, owns 17 major trophies himself and hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament — was hard to comprehend.

Djokovic left Nadal smirking or gritting his teeth or punching his racket strings, unable to compete at all.

Here’s how Nadal explained it: To have a chance when Djokovic plays that well, something extra is required. Given that he’s coming off a series of injuries, given that he hadn’t played since the U.S. Open last September, Nadal couldn’t raise his game.

Then again, Nadal conceded, “When the player did almost everything better than you, you can’t complain much.”

So Djokovic added to previous triumphs in Melbourne in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, along with four titles at Wimbledon, three at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open.

He broke his tie with Roger Federer and Roy Emerson for most Australian Open men’s titles. He also broke a tie with his idol, Pete Sampras, for third-most Grand Slam trophies; Djokovic now only trails Federer, with 20, and Nadal.

And he is gaining on them.

Then there’s this tidbit: Djokovic is the only man in tennis history to have a trio of three-straight-Slam streaks.

So let the talk begin about four majors in a row over two seasons, something Djokovic already managed to do from 2015-16. And, what’s more, about a true Grand Slam, winning all four majors in one calendar year, which only has been done by two men, Donald Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969.

“I am aware that making history of the sport that I truly love is something special,” the 31-year-old Serb said. “Of course, it motivates me.”

He surprised even himself with the way he recovered after problems with his right elbow derailed him.

Djokovic sat out the last half of 2017. He tried to come back at the start of 2018 but was hampered by the elbow and lost in the fourth round in Melbourne. Soon after, he decided to have surgery.

All that is in the past.

He is once again at an elite level. If anything, the gap between him and the rest is growing right now.

A year ago, could he have envisioned being here now?

“Not impossible, but highly unlikely. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I always believe in myself,” Djokovic said. “I think that’s probably the biggest secret of my success.”

Djokovic and Nadal know each other, their styles and their patterns all too well. This was their 53rd meeting — more than any other pair of men in the half-century professional era — and record-equaling 15th at a Grand Slam tournament. It was also their eighth matchup in a major final.

So there should not have been any mysteries out there on Rod Laver Arena’s blue court as they began with the temperature, which had topped 105 degrees (40 Celsius) in recent days, at a manageable 75 (25 C) and just a hint of wind.

Right from the start, though, this shaped up nothing like their only previous Australian Open title match, back in 2012, which Djokovic won in 5 hours, 53 minutes, the longest Grand Slam final in history.

Evenly matched as they were that night, this time was no contest. None whatsoever. It lasted a tad more than 2 hours.

No ball, no matter how well-struck, was out of Djokovic’s reach. He slid and stretched and occasionally even did the splits, contorting his body to get wherever and whenever he needed.

Djokovic grabbed 13 of the first 14 points, including all four that lasted 10 strokes or more. A trend was established.

Of most significance, Nadal was broken the very first time he served Sunday. That gave Djokovic one more break of Nadal than the zero that the Spaniard’s five preceding opponents had managed.

Nadal could make no headway on this day. Djokovic won each of the initial 16 points he served and 25 of the first 26.

“One of the most important objectives for the match was to start off well and to bring in the right mindset and intensity,” Djokovic said, “and make sure that he also feels my presence.”

By the end of the second set, Djokovic had won nearly twice as many points (59-30), made more winners (23-14) and far fewer unforced errors (20-4), while taking 14 of 17 points that lasted at least 10 strokes.

The longest was a 22-shot point, which ended when Nadal netted a backhand to give Djokovic a set point at the end of the first. Djokovic raised his right fist and held it there while staring at his guest box.

He was on the right path. Nadal could do nothing to stop him.

At the moment, no one can.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Japan’s Naomi Osaka arrives at Rod Laver Arena for the women’s singles final against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122207123-6a333c7969d541cf8e5610fd960ed441-1.jpgJapan’s Naomi Osaka arrives at Rod Laver Arena for the women’s singles final against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Japan’s Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122207123-cd8ba96b85f441c3b8b53cb4aff9932e-1.jpgJapan’s Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Japan’s Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/01/web1_122207123-1ddb4d9a3afc414bafb916f705a38258-1.jpgJapan’s Naomi Osaka answers questions at a press conference after defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, early Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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