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Rajeev Ram, Barbora Krejcikova combine to win Australian Open mixed doubles

Rajeev Ram, Barbora Krejcikova combine to win Australian Open mixed doubles

There's a reason that there have been 14 one-Slam wonders since 1980, that eight different women won the past eight Slams before Osaka and that no woman since Serena in 2015 had hoisted back-to-back trophies. Then she told herself that she was not so good as to expect not to lose a set to an acknowledged great player in a major final. "I don't ever want to waste this opportunity".

We look at Osaka's rapid rise from outsider to the best female player on the planet over the previous year. The next global superstar has arrived. Osaka is the first woman to win two major championships in a row since Williams picked up four straight in 2014-15 and has clearly marked herself as tennis' new star.

It didn't help that Channel 9 Australian Open host Tony Jones unwittingly rubbed it in when she conducted her first interview with the official Open broadcaster. I probably wasn't really ready to win it, to be honest. In tears at the end of the second set, she said she was able to recover her composure quickly because she can "disassociate" her feelings.

Kvitova held and then broke Osaka again to force the decider, letting out a passionate roar with Osaka looking down and out as she left the court. After a tense first set filled with missed break opportunities, Osaka began the tiebreak with a punishing serve and a lovely backhand return victor down the line.

Both women had three break points over the course of the match, and Osaka's first serve was a high point for her.

Doctors had given her only a 10 percent chance of returning to the sport and Kvitova said reaching the final of the season-opening Grand Slam was an achievement in itself.

Kvitova was seen with her head in her hands moments after the match was completed, seemingly processing how far she has come since undergoing surgery on her playing hand following the robbery at her apartment in the Czech Republic.

Kvitova was in her first grand slam final since her hitting hand was badly injured after being stabbed in a home invasion in late 2016.

When Smith lost his serve in the second game of the second set, there was no coming back for the local pair.

On that hot September night, Osaka disappeared into her own trophy celebration as a chorus of boos drowned out any cheers directed her way.

It was, make no mistake, a stunning collapse.

"Huge congrats to you Petra, I've always wanted to play you and you've been through so much". It happened to Elina Svitolina at the 2017 French Open.

Osaka tried to describe what the tennis-watching audience sees as a unique poise and maturity that allows her to come back from game-point losses that would psychologically decimate other players, even veterans. But Osaka calmed down.

"I just felt kind of hollow, like I was a robot sort of", she said of her mental state during her third set fightback. Slammed a ball. Tugged at her visor's pink brim.

"She is still so young, with so much potential to keep growing as No.1". I know all the sacrifices every player does to stay at this level.

The big-swinging Czech suffered disappointing early exits at Grand Slams in 2018 despite winning five titles on the year.


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