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Australian Open 2019: Naomi Osaka was ‘robot’ & Petra Kvitova is ‘hurting’

Australian Open 2019: Naomi Osaka was ‘robot’ & Petra Kvitova is ‘hurting’

Media playback is not supported on this device Osaka beats Kvitova in thrilling final Australian Open 2019Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 JanuaryCoverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.Australian Open champion…

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Osaka beats Kvitova in thrilling final
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.

Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka says she had to be a “robot” and turn off her feelings to hold her nerve and win the final against Petra Kvitova.

The Japanese, 21, had tears in her eyes after having three match points saved by her Czech opponent in the second set – before winning 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4.

“You know how some people get worked up about things? That’s a very human thing to do,” said Osaka.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to waste my energy doing stuff like that.”

US Open winner Osaka became the first player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to follow her maiden Grand Slam title with victory at the next one.

Her triumph in Melbourne will also take her to the top of the world rankings on Monday.

“I felt like I didn’t want to have any regrets,” said Osaka, who was the fourth seed at the tournament. “If I didn’t regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried.

“I just thought to myself that this is my second time playing a final, I can’t really act entitled. To be playing against one of the best players in the world, to lose a set – to suddenly think that I’m so much better than her, that isn’t a possibility.

“I literally just tried to turn off all my feelings. I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot.”

‘I was in a state of shock’

Naomi Osaka US Open and Australian Open titles

Naomi Osaka was in tears following her US Open victory but was much happier when presented with the Australian Open trophy

Having endeared herself to fans with her quirky news conferences and awkward acceptance speeches, she remained true to herself when she looked grateful to have the trophy taken out of her hands while apologising for public speaking not being her “strong point”.

“I felt like I was in a state of shock through the entire trophy presentation,” she said.

“Of course I felt very disappointed and sad when I had three match points. I tried to tell myself there’s nothing I can do about it – told myself I’m playing a final and need to keep fighting and couldn’t act immature.”

Osaka has in the past discussed Netflix, memes and computer game Overwatch in news conferences and after winning her first Masters title at Indian Wells last year made what she described as “the worst acceptance speech of all time”.

Rise from world number 72 in a year ‘not fast’

Naomi Osaka walking off court after losing the second set

Naomi Osaka went off court with tears in her eyes after she had three championship points saved before losing the second set

Last January, Osaka was ranked 72 in the world and had never progressed past the fourth round of a Grand Slam.

But the Japanese said her rise to two-time major champion and world number one in the space of a year “does not feel fast”.

“It felt kind of long,” she said. “I guess looking from the outside it does.

“For me, every practice and every match 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 every player does to stay at this level.”

Osaka claimed her first Grand Slam by beating American 23-time champion Serena Williams in a dramatic final in New York last September, backing that up immediately with more success in Melbourne.

“I had dreams I’d win this tournament,” she said. “Every time I have a dream somehow I accomplish it. I feel like it is a strange moment. I feel like I’m living now but it is not necessarily real.

“The ranking was never my real goal, my goal was just to win this tournament.”

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Osaka’s career timeline

  • 2015: Ranked 143rd in the world and failed to go beyond the first round of a Grand Slam.
  • 2016: Broke into the top 40 and was voted WTA Newcomer of the Year. Reached the third round at Australian Open, French Open and US Open.
  • 2017: Second straight top 100 finish (ended world number 68). Reached the third round of Wimbledon and US Open.
  • 2018: Broke into the world’s top five, finishing the year as number four. Won her first WTA title at Indian Wells in March and won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in September.
  • 2019: Becomes the first Asian player to become world number one. Wins her second Grand Slam at the Australian Open and becomes the first player since 2001 to win back-to-back Slams after their maiden title.
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‘Painful’ defeat for Kvitova but ‘amazing’ to even be in final

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova was playing in her first major final since a career-threatening knife attack in December 2016

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova said she was proud of reaching her first Grand Slam final since being stabbed with a knife in a robbery at her home in December 2016.

The 28-year-old Czech feared she would “never pick up a racquet again” after needing surgery on her playing left hand.

She remarkably returned to the sport five months after the attack, going on to win six WTA titles since and will climb back up to number two in the rankings on Monday.

Despite being proud of her achievements, she still described Saturday’s defeat by Osaka as “painful”.

“I don’t know how long will take me to get over it,” said Kvitova, who was the eighth seed in Melbourne.

“It’s hurting a lot. I wanted to win and have the trophy – but I think I already won two years ago. So for me, it’s amazing.”

Defeat meant Kvitova missed out on becoming world number one for the first time, but she admitted she never envisaged climbing so high in the rankings following the attack.

“I wanted to be back at my greatest level, probably as I played before,” she said.

“I knew it would be very, very difficult because my hand is not 100% and never will be.

“I’m just trying to take maximum from the minimum.

“I don’t think that I could really imagine being this kind of player again.”

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