Naomi Osaka admitted her mind has already wandered to the possibility of a ‘Naomi Slam’ after she won her second consecutive major title at the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 21-year-old from Japan followed up her US Open triumph by beating Petra Kvitova in a dramatic final at Melbourne Park.
The victory also earned Osaka the world No 1 ranking and, after two years of unpredictability, it appears the women’s game finally has a new star on which it can rely.
So could Osaka follow in the footsteps of her idol Serena Williams by holding all four slam titles at the same time?
“You guys know the French Open’s next, right,” she said with a chuckle. “I love that clay court.
“I’m not going to lie and say that thought hasn’t crossed my mind, but I don’t know. I feel like I have to take it one tournament at a time, especially since Indian Wells is coming up and I won that tournament last year so I feel like I have to think about that.”
By lifting the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, Osaka was literally fulfilling a dream having found her subconscious predicting the moment during the tournament.
“With things like that you don’t want to overthink it, and you don’t want to jinx it, so you never really talk about it,” she said.
“But definitely I had some very vivid dreams. It was intense. I take it as a sign. For example, I was practising on Rod Laver one day and right before that they were doing some sort of movie shots with the trophy and I was able to see it for the first time in person. I was like, ‘I really want this’.”
The frightening thing for the rest of the field is that Osaka did not even find her best tennis for much of the tournament, but showed a champion’s ability to fight through the difficult moments, not least when three match points slipped through her fingers in the second set against Kvitova.
“I always hear stories that the best players win matches even when they’re not playing their best and I always wondered how they did that so I feel like this tournament for me was that,” said Osaka. “It’s a new skill, and something I didn’t know I could do, but when the moment came I was able to do it.”
Kvitova, who would also have become No 1 with victory, was playing in her first grand slam final since winning her second Wimbledon title in 2014 and only two years after the knife attack at her home that put her career in the balance.
The Czech could not hide her pain at the result, but was able to see the bigger picture.
She said: “It’s hurting a lot. I wanted to win and have the trophy. But I think I already won two years ago. So, for me, it’s amazing. I think I still don’t really realise that I played the final.”
Kvitova had to pause in her on-court speech for a standing ovation after thanking her team for standing by her when she did not know if she would ever be able to hold a racket again, such was the damage to the nerves and tendons in her fingers.