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Osaka vs Kvitova Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Australian Open title and No. 1 ranking on the line in blockbuster final showdown

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 25 Jan 2019
  • Naomi Osaka vs Petra Kvitova is live from Melbourne Park at 7.30pm local time on Saturday (8.30am GMT)
  • First career meeting between the pair
  • First Australian Open final for both players
  • No. 1 ranking also up for grabs
Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova clash for the 2019 Australian Open title on Saturday (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images and Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova square off for the first time with the 2019 Australian Open title and World No. 1 ranking on the line on Saturday night in Melbourne.

A blockbuster 2019 Australian Open final showdown between two of the most powerful and popular players in women’s tennis awaits on Saturday night as Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova collide for the very first time in their careers. Osaka is trying to become the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to back up their first Grand Slam title triumph by winning the following slam, while Kvitova is attempting to capture her first major title outside of Wimbledon - just a little over two years removed from undergoing potentially career-threatening surgery on her dominant left hand after she was attacked in a home invasion in her residence in Prague at the end of 2016. The stage is set for a spell-binding showpiece under the lights at Melbourne Park - who’s star shines brightest and who will depart Australia with the opening Grand Slam title of 2019 and the No. 1 ranking?

We all know that Osaka is already a tremendous player and will be for the next decade or so. But I don’t think many of us believed she’d be displaying the sort of form and consistency that she has been producing since surging to her maiden Grand Slam victory at the U.S. Open in stunning circumstances in September of last year. After taking out arguably the greatest champion (man or woman) this sport has ever seen in Serena Williams in a now-infamous and controversial final, Osaka has made the final of Tokyo, the semi-finals of Beijing, qualified for the WTA Finals Singapore, reached the semi-finals of Brisbane and now advanced to her first Australian Open final in her next five tournaments.

It’s Osaka’s belief and mental strength that has been the highlight of her Australian Open run over the last fortnight. Just a week or so removed from her admission in Brisbane about her poor on-court attitude and behaviour, Osaka has showcased nerves of steel in Melbourne - most notably against the likes of Su-Wei Hsieh and Anastasija Sevastova in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Two players that are both very crafty and compete with a lot of variety and finesse (which has been a bad match-up for Osaka in the past), both Sevastova and Hsieh put themselves into winning positions against the Japanese player, but each time Osaka dug deep, problem-solved and raised her level to tough out a pair of three-set victories.

A comfortable straight sets win over sixth seed Elina Svitolina followed before Osaka played one of the best matches of her career in the semi-finals against Karolina Pliskova, firing 56 winners on her way to a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win. The fourth seed was the player in control for the bulk of the contest and the player who was more often than not seizing the initiative in baseline exchanges, with Pliskova in the unfamiliar position of helplessly watching balls fly past her. The Czech fought bravely and managed to dig out the second set, but Osaka responded to that disappointment superbly, quickly breaking at the start of the third and riding that momentum all the way to victory.

"There are moments in the match where I thought, like, 'This is getting really close.' I just thought I wouldn't forgive myself if I had a little dip or a moment of accepting defeat,” Osaka said after the win.
"I love Grand Slams. This is, like, a place where I think is worth all the training. When you're little, you watch the Grand Slams, you watch all the players play, like, the legendary matches here. For me, this is the most important tournament. There's only four of them a year, so of course I want to do the best that I can here."

The first Japanese player to make an Australian Open final, can Osaka win her 14th match in a row at Grand Slam level and secure a second straight major trophy on Saturday night?

Petra Kvitova (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Not if Petra Kvitova has any say in the matter. The Czech has put together an incredible 11-match winning streak to reach her first Grand Slam final outside of Wimbledon, beating the likes of Angelique Kerber and Ashleigh Barty to secure the Sydney International title a couple of weeks ago before storming through the Australian Open draw without dropping a set. After ending home hope Barty’s run in the quarter-finals, Kvitova took to court against the unseeded Danielle Collins in the semi-finals on Thursday, and for a moment it appeared as if her campaign could be derailed as they took to the court in searing 36C heat, but at 4-4 in the first set, the Australian Open’s heat-related stress indicator hit 5.0, which meant that the roof could now be closed. Notorious for her fearsome play indoors, Kvitova would only lose two more games for the match, dominating the first set tiebreak before delivering a ‘bagel’ in the second to emerge triumphant 7-6(2) 6-0.

"It means everything," Kvitova said when asked of how it felt to make a first Grand Slam final since 2014. "This is why I work very hard to be in the finals of tournaments and the finals of majors."

Historically, when Kvitova reaches the title match of any tournament, she’s been almost impossible to stop. Indeed, the Czech has won her last eight consecutive finals and has a daunting 26-7 record in finals overall throughout her career. In her two major finals to date at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, Kvitova beat Maria Sharapova 6-3 6-4 and Eugenie Bouchard 6-3 6-0, the latter of which was one of the most destructive Grand Slam final performances in recent memory. Kvitova appears to be in that frame of mind once again, with her lethal forehand in menacing touch, while her backhand, especially cross-court, has also been sensational.

And of course, you can’t go without mentioning everything Kvitova has been through over the last couple of years. She could have lost her life in a terrifying home invasion at the end of 2016 in Prague and ended up suffering severe lacerations to her left hand from the intruder’s knife, with her surgeon declaring there was a 10 per cent chance she’d be able to return to elite-level tennis. But, in an extraordinary story, Kvitova is arguably playing the best tennis of her career just two years after undergoing surgery - can she cap a fairytale tournament with a third Grand Slam title?

For the second year on the bounce, the No. 1 ranking will also be decided in the Australian Open final, with both Osaka and Kvitova never once before holding the top spot. While it’s a nice prize to also win, rest assured both players will be 100 per cent focused on the major trophy that is there to be seized. We can expect a similar sort of match to the Osaka vs Pliskova semi-final, although Kvitova is left-handed, so it will be interesting to see who targets what in that match-up of forehands to backhands. Perhaps the biggest aspect of this match is the first set: Osaka is on an jaw-dropping 59-match winning streak when winning the first set dating back to 2016 and an 11-match winning run at slams. When you carve out a streak that long, there’s no luck involved - there’s a definite reason, and that’s Osaka’s confidence and her ability to settle once she gains an initial lead. It’s therefore imperative that Kvitova gets off to a good start herself, but with the way the Czech is playing at the moment, she is more than capable. It’s Osaka’s first-set dominance up against Kvitova’s sensational finals record - and this is as 50-50 contest as one can get for a Grand Slam final!

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Osaka vs Kvitova Australian Open live streaming, preview and tips - Australian Open title and No. 1 ranking on the line in blockbuster final showdown

Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova square off for the first time with the 2019 Australian Open title and World No. 1 ranking on the line on Saturday night in Melbourne.

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