Naomi Osaka was inspired as she raced to victory in the final of the 2021 Australian Open with a straight-sets win over Jennifer Brady at Melbourne Park.
While the opening set was a fiercely-contested one, the second was not as competitive as Osaka further secured her status as the best player in the world.
The 2019 champion never looked overly troubled as she clinched a second crown at Melbourne Park and her fourth Grand Slam title in just one hour and 17 minutes – with all four having come on hard courts.
The third seed always looked to have too much for the American – who was appearing in her maiden Grand Slam final – but Brady did produce some quite brilliant play at times, particularly in the opening set.
Indeed, there was nothing between the pair when, at 4-4 and 30-30, the 22nd seed came up with a spectacular lob to stun Osaka and get the crowd inside Rod Laver Arena on their feet.
The patches of thrilling tennis ensured that it remained an intriguing battle throughout, and Brady could not have done more as she bombarded her opponent with her trademark huge forehands.
But Osaka was simply the more clinical and, when it really mattered, stepped up her intensity and won the crucial points.
A decisive break, aided by two fortunate plays in succession, enabled the 23-year-old to close out the opening set despite Brady having more than held her own.
It quickly began to look bleak for the American as she got off to a nightmare start in the second set, however, and suddenly Osaka held a commanding 4-0 lead.
While Brady battled back valiantly to break Osaka and give the scoreboard a fairer appearance, her opponent always looked in control of the match and continued to dominate the key points until closing it out.
“When we played in the semis of the US Open, a couple of months ago, and I told everyone that ‘Listen you’re going to be a problem’. And I was right,” said Osaka.
“It feels really incredible for me. I didn’t play my last Grand Slam with fans so just to have this energy it really means a lot.”
Brady added: “First I would like to congratulate Naomi on another Grand Slam title. She’s such an inspiration to us all and what she’s doing for the game is amazing and getting the sport out there and I hope young girls at home are watching and are inspired by what she’s doing.”
At the age of just 23, the Japanese star has rightly been hailed by Eurosport’s Justine Henin as the “new boss of women’s tennis” – and her career trajectory is very much heading in the right direction.
Eurosport commentator Jo Durie declared that Osaka is now “the undisputed queen of the hard courts”, while Simon Reed agreed that she is “the best female tennis player in the world”.
Osaka now has a pair of titles at both the US Open and Australian Open, and as the best player in the world right now, can surely kick on and continue to add to her rapidly-growing tally.