Osaka triumphs at Australian Open to become world number one
Japan's Naomi Osaka has held off Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic to win the Australian Open in a three-set thriller, making it back-to-back Grand Slam titles and becoming the new world number one.
The fourth seed and US Open champion triumphed 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-4 in a 2hr 27min epic over the Czech eighth seed to become the first Asian, male or female, to hold the top spot.
The 21-year-old fell to one knee in celebration, head bowed, as Melbourne Park erupted in thunderous cheers.
"I felt like I was in a state of shock through the entire trophy presentation," she said after the match.
A rattled Osaka almost blew her title hopes with one hand on the trophy when she failed to convert three championship points leading 5-3 in the second set.
A double fault then gifted Kvitova the set as the Czech forced the decider before Osaka finally edged ahead with a decisive break early in the third.
"Of course I felt very disappointed and sad when I had three match points," she said.
"I tried to tell myself there's nothing I can do about it. Told myself I'm playing a final and need to keep fighting and couldn't act immature and needed to keep fighting."
Her jubilation was a marked contrast to Osaka's maiden Slam win last year, when she tearfully hid her face as boos rang around Flushing Meadows in the wake of losing finalist Serena Williams' tirade at the umpire.
This time, Osaka cried with joy and smiled as she became the youngest woman to win back-to-back majors since Martina Hingis in 1998 and the youngest number one since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
Her gutsy performance confirms her status as the leading light of tennis' new generation.
Kvitova can console herself with a career-best performance at Melbourne Park, where she did not drop a set on her way to the final.
It was her first Grand Slam decider since a burglar slashed her racquet hand in a 2016 knife attack and the Czech has shown she is again a contender at the majors.
"Thank you for sticking with me even when we didn't know if I would able to hold a racquet again," Kvitova told her team, with her voice cracking.
"It's crazy. I can hardly believe that I just played in a Grand Slam final again."
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