MELBOURNE (AFP) – Fourth seed Naomi Osaka outgunned Karolina Pliskova yesterday to set up an Australian Open final against Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova.
The 21-year-old Japanese star overcame the seventh seed 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach a second straight Grand Slam decider after her breakthrough triumph over Serena Williams at last year’s US Open.
Osaka started strongly to take the first set as the match began with the roof of Rod Laver Arena closed amid sweltering temperatures exceeding 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Farenheit).
But Pliskova, who ousted American great Williams with an epic comeback to make the semi-finals on Wednesday, roared back in the second before Osaka edged past her in the third.
“I expected it, I expected a really hard battle,” Osaka said of Pliskova’s attempt to come back from a set and a break down.
“I just told myself to regroup in the third set and try as hard as I could no matter what, and I managed to win.”
She said her win at Flushing Meadows helped settle her nerves against the never-say-die Czech.
“I was so scared serving second serves,” she said. “I guess that’s experience, I don’t know.
Osaka is bidding to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the US and Australian Opens back to back.
She will also become the new world number one, replacing Romania’s Simona Halep, if she beats Kvitova in the final.
Pliskova was the bookies’ favourite for the title after her effort against Williams but made a slow start, hitting only four winners to Osaka’s 16 in the first set.