- Kyodo News via Getty Images
- Japan’s Naomi Osaka is through to the Australian Open final.
- The 21-year-old blew through Karolina Pliskova in three sets on Thursday, playing 56 winners in the match.
- She’ll take on fourth seed Petra Kvitová on Saturday in the finals where one of them will take the title and claim world No. 1 ranking at the same time.
- Personable as ever, Osaka gave an entertaining post-match interview where she addressed her Japanese fans and said she’d be going straight to sleep.
The reigning US Open champion played a staggering total of 56 winners to Pliskova’s 20 to lead her to her second Grand Slam final on Saturday, where she’ll take on Petra Kvitová.
One of them will take the Australian Open title and claim world No. 1 ranking at the same time.
Osaka delivered a typically personable and entertaining post-match interview with former British tennis star Sam Smith. She bemoaned the closing of the roof over the Rod Laver Arena where temperatures reached around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
“To be honest, I like the heat so I was kind of sad about that [the roof being closed],” Osaka said.
“It’s 40 degrees out there!” Smith responded in astonishment.
“No, but they had the roof open and I was like, ‘my time to shine,’ you know?” Osaka said with a giggle.
Smith commented that Osaka had done a lot of walking around Melbourne, and asked if she’d be going for more strolls before the final on Saturday.
“I’m going to go to sleep,” replied the exhausted player. “Maybe after that, I might walk but probably not, to be honest.”
Osaka then gave a message to her Japanese fans watching at home and those who had made the trip out to Melbourne.
“I just said thank you for cheering and I’ll try my best in my next match,” she afterwards said in English.
The Japanese star’s final against Czech Kvitová promises to be an instant classic as both players go into the match in tremendous form. Kvitova is riding an 11-match and has won a remarkable 26 of the 33 finals she’s played in, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, Osaka has shown there is no hangover after she beat Serena Williams in the US Open final last year.
CNN reports she is the first female player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win a first grand slam title and then make the final in her next major.
Her serving has also been outstanding in Melbourne – her total 50 aces puts her 13 ahead of next best Pliskova.
Osaka has also made headlines outside of the tournament this week when one of her sponsors Nissin apologised for white-washing her in an advert.
The Japanese noodle maker recently launched its “Hungry to win” campaign but Baye McNeil, the author of the Black Eye column in the Japan Times, said that even though Osaka features, “there was no woman of color to speak of in the commercial.”
Nissin has since apologized and seems to have pulled the video from YouTube.
“There is no intention of whitewashing,” a spokesperson told The New York Times in an email. “We accept that we are not sensitive enough and will pay more attention to diversity issue in the future.”
The spokesperson also apologized for “the confusion and discomfort.”