Saturday, February 20, 2021

Osaka beats Brady for title; Cal assistant wins mixed

Naomi Osaka, shown in 2014 at age 16, improved to
4-0 in Grand Slam finals. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Third-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan won her fourth Grand Slam singles title today, dominating 22nd-seeded Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla., 6-4, 6-3 in the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   From 4-4 in the first set, Osaka won six consecutive games. 
   "She played really well when she had to," Brady, who lost to Osaka 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3 in the U.S. Open semifinals last September, told reporters. "She hit good shots when she needed them."
   Osaka, who saved two match points in her fourth-round victory over Garbine Muguruza, improved to 4-0 in Grand Slam finals. 
   Osaka became the first woman to win her first four major finals since Monica Seles 30 years ago. The only other player to accomplish the feat in the Open era, which began in 1968, is Roger Federer.
   "That's very amazing company," Osaka said.
   Among active women, only 39-year-old Serena Williams (23) and 40-year-old Venus Williams (seven) have won more Grand Slam singles titles than the 23-year-old Osaka.
   Osaka pocketed $2.13 million for her second Australian Open singles crown, down from the $3.12 million that Sofia Kenin collected for winning last year's title. Osaka, formerly ranked No. 1, will rise one notch to No. 2 on Monday.
   Brady, 25, settled for $1.16 million in her first Grand Slam final. She is projected to jump 11 places to a career-high No. 13. 
   Osaka made her WTA main-draw debut at 16 at Stanford in 2014. Brady starred in Northern California Challengers, sweeping the singles and doubles titles in Redding ($25,000) in 2014 at age 19 and advancing to the quarterfinals as the top seed in Sacramento ($60,000) in 2017, losing to Sofia Kenin.
   Men's singles final — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is scheduled to face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN (replays at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2).
   Djokovic, 33, is 4-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, 25. But Medvedev has won three of the past four meetings, all in best-of-three-set matches. In their only previous Grand Slam encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.
   Djokovic seeks his third consecutive Australian Open singles title, ninth overall and 18th in majors, two short of the record held by Federer, 39, and Rafael Nadal, 34.
   Medvedev will play in his second Grand Slam final. He lost an epic match against Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open.
   Mixed doubles final — In a late match, sixth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Rajeev Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, defeated Australian wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matthew Ebden 6-1, 6-4. 
   Krejcikova won her third consecutive Australian Open mixed doubles crown after triumphing with Ram in 2019 and Nikola Mektic of Croatia last year. 
   Stosur and Ebden were playing for their second Australian Open mixed doubles titles. Stosur won with countryman Scott Draper in 2005, and Ebden triumphed with Jarmila Gajdosova, a Slovakian-born Australian, in 2013.
   Men's doubles final — Ram, from Carmel, Ind., and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury, the fifth seeds and defending champions, are scheduled to meet ninth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia tonight at 8 (PST) on Tennis Channel. 
   Ram, 36, Salisbury, 28, and Dodig, 36, seek their second Grand Slam men's doubles titles. Polasek, 35, will play in his first major final. 

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