Naomi Osaka’s title at the 2021 Australian Open has given her a fourth major title. At just 23 years old, she has officially taken over the tennis world.
Naomi Osaka’s fourth Grand Slam title in this year’s Australian Open final was pure dominance. In fact, so was her entire fortnight. Outside of a tough fourth-round encounter with former World No. 1, Garbine Muguruza, Osaka blitzed her competition like frozen fruit in a blender.
The now 4-time major champion made short work of the three other seeded players she faced. 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur? Three and two in under an hour and a half. The queen of the current generation, Serena Williams. 6-3, 6-4. Finally, her final opponent, Jennifer Brady? Same result.
With two Australian Open titles to go along with two in New York, Osaka is officially the best player in the world. Of course, she’s ranked 2nd in the rankings behind only Ashleigh Barty, but is there any doubt that the 23-year-old wouldn’t take her down as well?
Osaka hasn’t lost a match in over a year. Her last on-court defeat came February 7th, 2020 to Sara Sorribes Tormo at the Fed Cup Qualifiers. Injuries likely played a role, but since then, a lot has happened. The tennis world took a half-year break due to COVID-19. Osaka hasn’t lost since.
As the unquestionable face of tennis, the pressure rolling in is massive. Not only a leader on the court but off of it, as well. Osaka has been a commanding figure in fighting for the Black Lives Matter Movement since it began last summer. Add to that her undeniable charm and you’ve got yourself a superstar, à la Serena Williams.
“For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do. So I don’t really put too much pressure on myself in that way,” Osaka said yesterday.
Osaka’s rank of 2nd in the world has sparked controversy on the WTA’s handling of the impacted 2020 season and beyond. In past years, a player would need to better their result from a tournament the year prior in order to gain rankings points. If not, they’d lose points due to a worse result.
In the case of current World No. 1, Barty finished as a semifinalist last year but fell in the quarters this time around. In a normal scenario, she’d lose points, but a change midway through 2020 allowed players to take their 16 best results from the past two seasons to determine the number of ranking points they’d receive.
While it seems fair on the surface, Osaka played in both the 2020 Western & Southern Open and US Open, whereas Barty opted to stay in Australia for the 2020 season. Osaka finished as a winner in both events. Barty didn’t participate. There’s nothing against players staying safe, but Osaka is clearly the best player in the world right now. The rankings need to reciprocate that.
Whatever the case, Naomi Osaka’s brilliant last eight months has been a pure joy to watch. Both men’s and women’s tennis is in very good hands with the emergence of a great group of young players ready to go. While the ATP has yet to find their next face of the game, the WTA is set. Osaka is ready to take over tennis, more so than she has already.
Her next opportunities will come in March with the WTA 500 Qatar Total Open and the WTA 1000 in Dubai.