Naomi Osaka beat Petra Kvitova 7-6 (2), 5-7, 6-4 in the Australian Open women’s final on Saturday, her second straight Grand Slam title.
With the victory, the 21-year-old Japanese player will leave Melbourne as the world’s top-ranked player.
“Like, I had dreams that I would win this tournament, you know?,” said Osaka, who is the first Japanese player to reach No. 1. “Every time I have a dream, somehow I accomplish it. I still feel like it’s a very strange moment. Like, I feel like I’m living right now, but it’s not necessarily real, if that makes sense.”
Osaka, seeded fourth, failed to put away Kvitova, a 28-year-old Czech player seeded eighth, in the second set despite going up 5-3 after a double break.
Kvitova took advantage of a flustered Osaka at that point and won the next four games to force a deciding set.
“I just thought to myself that this is my second time playing a final,” said Osaka, who beat Serena Williams in the controversial U.S. Open final last year. “I can’t really act entitled. To be playing against one of the best players in the world, to lose a set, suddenly think that I’m so much better than her that that isn’t a possibility…”
Osaka’s composure returned in the third set and she again jumped out to the early lead. This time, she wouldn’t falter when it came time to finish the match.
Kvitova — who won at Wimbledon in 2011 and ’14 — saw her winning streak end at 11 matches. She’ll rise to No. 2 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“It’s hurting a lot today,” Kvitova said afterward. “I wanted to win and have the trophy.”
“But I think I already won two years ago,” she continued, referring to her return to tennis after being stabbed in the hand by a home intruder in her native Czech Republic.
“So for me, it’s amazing.”