The first Grand Slam trophy of the year will be handed out on Saturday as Naomi Osaka takes on Petra Kvitova in the final of the Australian Open.
Both players have major titles to their name and while Osaka appears the player in form, Kvitova’s surge has been the story of the tournament.
The match on the Rod Laver Arena will mark the first time the pair have met – and the Czech’s freshness could make all the difference.
Kvitova to win @ 10/13
Osaka’s maiden Grand Slam triumph at last year’s US Open went somewhat under the radar. The match was overshadowed Serena Williams‘ on-court quarrel with umpire Carlos Ramos, but the Japanese kept her head and the flood of tears that followed was perhaps a mix of joy and embarrassment at the situation.
The 21-year-old is a rising star of the game and has shown her grit in Melbourne by coming through three-setters in three of her last four matches. That has allowed her to show off her skills, recording 56 winners in her semi-final defeat of Karolina Pliskova.
However, when talking about steel, Kvitova’s story trumps all. The eighth seed was a two-time Wimbledon winner before her career was almost ended when an intruder broke into her apartment and stabbed her in the playing hand.
An arduous comeback was followed by some indifferent results and she failed to make it past the third round of a Grand Slam in 2018.
Winning one of this tournament’s warm-up events, the Sydney International, will have given her huge confidence and a maiden title in Australia could beckon. Kvitova has clearly been inspired by the uncertainty aimed at her, admitting it “feels great” to prove her doubters wrong.
Kvitova to win 2-1 @ 13/5
That victory in Sydney saw her come from behind and there is still a feeling the 28-year-old’s cheery nature and occasionally ungainly play can lead to her being underestimated.
The Bilovec-born star remains ruthless, winning all of her matches to date in straight sets, while she has won her last eight finals, contributing to a career record of 26-7. Coming from behind in the final in Sydney also shows she can go the distance.
Her fresh legs could prove crucial, with Osaka having been forced to three sets so often. It is likely to be a tight encounter which will go all the way, but 28-year-old Kvitova appears to have the edge over her rival.
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