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Osaka vs Kvitova Australian Open final: Keys to victory

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 25 Jan 2019
  • Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova is live from Melbourne on Saturday, 26 January from 7:30pm local time/ 8:30am GMT
  • We look at the factors that could determine the outcome of the Australian Open women's final
Naomi Osaka takes on Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open final on Saturday. (Photo by /AFP/Getty Images)

As Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova prepare for the Australian Open women’s singles final, we look at the key factors that could determine the destination of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

First Serve Percentage

In a contest between two of the most formidable servers in the women’s game, and two players who like to get the first strike in, the first serve percentage becomes very important, as second serves will be punished. Kvitova has generally served better during the Australian Open, finding her mark with 67.5% of her first serves, while Osaka is down at 61.8%. The differential may not seem much, but in a match likely to be decided by little margins, that could be pivotal in the eventual outcome of this contest. I do think Osaka needs to push that number up if she’s going to win the Australian Open title. 

Kvitova has also protected her second serve better, winning 54.3% of points behind her second delivery, while Osaka is at 50.8%. Those second serve percentages will like go down on Saturday as both ladies will be very aggressive on second serve returns. Hence, whoever shields her second serve better by getting in those first serves would have taken a giant step towards victory.

Winners-Unforced Errors Ratio

Kvitova and Osaka are experts at blitzing spectacular winners all over the court, but they do tend to make plenty of unforced errors as well due to the aggressive nature of their play. Osaka has hit more winners than Kvitova at the 2019 Australian Open, but she has also committed more unforced errors than the Czech. However, Osaka’s higher numbers in both categories are to be expected as she has spent more time on court and played three more sets than Kvitova. 

A more reflective statistic is the winners to unforced errors ratio, which is pretty much level. Osaka is at 1.262 while Kvitova is just behind at 1.256. There will not be much holding back on Saturday, and who ever manages to temper that aggression with control will most likely be rewarded with the Australian Open title (and the world No. 1 ranking!)

First Set

A popular stat through the course of the 2019 Australian Open has been Naomi Osaka’s remarkable record when she’s won the first set. The Japanese star has now won 59 consecutive matches when she has taken the first set, which shows her incredible ability as a frontrunner. If she gets herself ahead, Kvitova better watch out! The other thing to note is that while Osaka has twice come back from a set down to win over the last fortnight (against Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round and Anastasija Sevastova in the fourth), Kvitova hasn’t had to face that adversity, and could find it hard to react if that happens. If you merge both stats together, it’s definitely advantage Osaka if she manages to bag the first set.

Kvitova isn’t a slouch in converting a first-set advantage to victory. Her recent win-rate after taking the first set isn’t as daunting as Osaka’s, but the fact that she is yet to drop a set in this tournament cannot be ignored. She is in such great form, and playing with such great confidence that when she gets herself in front, she has gone on win the match. All of these would suggest that whoever wins the first set will be champion on Saturday.

Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova Australian Open stats

7 hrs 8 minsTime spent on court9 hrs 25 mins
13Winners per set15
125Unforced errors179
10.4Unforced errors per set11.9
12-0Sets won-lost12-3
51Average rank of opponent31
67.5%First serve percentage61.8%
78.1%Points won on first serves75.5%
54.3%Points won on second serves50.8%
49.2%Break Point Conversion rate50.3%

Break Points Conversion Rate/ Break Points saved

Big matches always come down to the big points, and in a battle of good servers, they don’t come bigger than break points. Osaka and Kvitova have identical break point conversion rate, with both hovering around 50%, but a more intriguing stat for me is the break points saved by both players, which gives a clearer indication of how they react to pressure moments. Kvitova has been protecting her serve superbly through the tournament, as she has conceded just 14 break points through the six previous rounds. She has saved 11 of the 14. Osaka, on the other hand, has been more charitable offering up 46 break points (!), and saving 31 of them. In fairness, Osaka has faced the more difficult opponents, including top ten stars, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova, and the extremely tricky duo of Sevastova and Hsieh. The average ranking of her opponents so far is 31, while Kvitova’s is 51. Still 46 break points is a lot, and if she is that generous against Kvitova on Saturday, it’s highly unlikely she’d survive.

Kvitova’s lefty serve

This for me is the key shot of the match, and if Kvitova executes this as well as she can, it’s going to be very tough for Osaka to make inroads into the Czech’s service games. Kvitova’s swinging lefty serve forces Osaka wide into her backhand corner, and opens up the court for the Czech to hit her winners. Osaka can of course do the same to Kvitova by serving wide into the Czech’s backhand, but Kvitova does it a better backhand than Osaka. The left hander has also faced six right-handers so far, and should be used to that, unlike Osaka, who hasn’t faced a left-hander all tournament. It won’t be easy to adjust.

Beyond the forehands and the backhands, and the winners and unforced errors, this match will lean on whoever deals with the pressure of the situation better, and executes the basics of the game. History suggests that both cope well with pressure, with Osaka expertly comporting herself in a chaotic US Open final, and Kvitova putting in dominant performances in her two Wimbledon finals. The Czech is also on an eight-match winning streak in tour-level finals. When she gets this far, she usually goes all the way.

It’s a fascinating contest between two confident players, who have got serious weapons to hurt each other, and if they both play at a very high level, it should be a spectacular Australian Open final.

Osaka vs Kvitova is live from Melbourne on Saturday, 26 January. Read the full match preview!

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Osaka vs Kvitova Australian Open final: Keys to victory

As Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova prepare for the Australian Open women’s singles final, we look at the key factors that could determine the destination of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

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