By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Naomi Osaka  v Petra Kvitova
- First meeting
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – With the World No. 1 on the line, Petra Kvitova takes on reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka for a maiden Australian Open crown.
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Naomi Osaka  v Petra Kvitova | First meeting
At the time of writing, Osaka is provisionally the new WTA World No. 1 when the rankings come out on Monday, unless Kvitova wins the title.
Osaka’s Path to the Final
- R1: Magda Linette 6-4 6-2
- R2: Tamara Zidansek 6-2 6-4
- R3: Hsieh Su-Wei  5-7 6-4 6-1
- R4: Anastasija Sevastova  4-6 6-3 6-4
- QF: Elina Svitolina  6-4 6-1
- SF: Karolina Pliskova  6-2 4-6 6-4
Osaka’s earliest test came at the hands of Hsieh. Her tricky style seemed to toe up Osaka in knots until Osaka turned things around from 0-3 down in the second set reeling off five games on the trot from 2-4 down before cantering to the finish line.
She had to come back once more from a set down against Sevastova so in light of Svitolina’s struggles with injury, it must have been a relief to get past the No. 6 seed in straight sets.
It was a nervy affair against Pliskova at times too, and the mix of focus and the occasional outburst of emotion has made her progress an intriguing one. Osaka is on a 13-match winning streak at Grand Slams as she aims to become the first Japanese player to win the US Open.
Kvitova’s Path to the Final
- R1: Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3 6-2
- R2 Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1 6-3
- R3: Belinda Bencic 6-1 6-4
- R4: Amanda Anisimova 6-2 6-1
- QF: Ashleigh Barty  6-1 6-4
- SF: Danielle Collins 7-6(2) 6-0
The popular Czech will certainly be a fan favourite to lift the title, having made it this far after a career-threatening knife attack at her home kept her off the tour with little hope that she would ever be able to compete, much less at the higher levels again.
Kvitova’s route to the final has been a lot easier than Osaka’s. She has yet to drop a set and has found ways to utilise both powerful hitters and those with a lot more variety to their game.
Who will win the Australian Open Women’s Singles Title
A tricky leftie who knows how to make the best use of the advantages that serve gives her, Kvitova adds whip and pace to often great free points and backs it up with heavy forehands and backhands and creating some crazy sharp angles. She has variety and timing which helps to maybe make up for her lack of speed compared to others.
Osaka opts for an aggressive baseline game and much like Kvitova, she can belt winners off both sides. She has a big attacking forehand but can equally rip backhand winners. She too has a competent and strong serve and will spin and pace her shots to change things up.
We should expect to see a heavy hitting battle, and maybe you have to give the edge to Osaka on some of the longer rallies, but Kvitova’s fighting spirit pulled her through in a lung-busting Sydney final, as she comes into this final on an 11-match winning streak.
It would be a surprise if this did not go the distance – the final certainly deserves it. Maybe it is a more sentimental pick than one based on rankings, but even though it has been a long Australian campaign, the Czech might just have the momentum to carry her through. Either way Osaka has proved that she is no flash in the pan, having reached two Slam finals in a row.
Prediction: Kvitova in three sets.
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