Osaka through to Melbourne decider after Pliskova thriller

Japanese star Naomi Osaka

Japanese star Naomi Osaka reached her first Australian Open final after outlasting Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.

Naomi Osaka withstood a Karolina Pliskova comeback in an entertaining Australian Open semi-final, prevailing 6-2 4-6 6-4 to advance to back-to-back grand slam deciders.

US Open champion and fourth seed Osaka was up a set and a break as she appeared to be cruising to the women’s final in Melbourne, where the temperature exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.

Pliskova – who saved four match points in a stunning win over Serena Williams in the quarter-finals – managed to wrestle back the momentum and send the match into a deciding set, however, Osaka was not to be denied in a battle of the big hitters on Thursday.

Naomi Osaka reaches the final of the Australian Open after win over Karolina Pliskova

Osaka – aiming to become the first woman to win successive slams since Williams claimed the 2014 US Open followed by the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2015 – earned a showdown with two-time All England Club champion Petra Kvitova to prevent a first all-Czech final.

Already enjoying her best run at an Australian Open, having never reached the quarters prior to this year, Japanese star Osaka made a flying start under the Rod Laver Arena roof amid extreme heat against Pliskova.

After a tight opening for both players, Osaka found her rhythm against seventh seed Pliskova as she hit an incredible 16 winners in a 32-minute set, which she sealed with an ace.

When Osaka continued where she left off by breaking in the first game of the second set, a swift straight-sets victory looked to be on the horizon.

However, Pliskova finally cleaned up her act and clicked into gear – earning her first break points of the match which were converted in the second game, before rallying from 0-40 down in the third to stay on serve.

Nerves began to rattle Osaka, who hit 24 winners but 11 unforced errors in the set, while Pliskova only recorded three in an impressive second set to force a decider.

Osaka’s frustration grew after facing three break points but she saved all of them in a crucial hold in the second game, which lasted more than six minutes.

And it proved to be a decisive moment as Osaka – who had been huffing and puffing in annoyance – broke Pliskova to 15 en route to the women’s decider.

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Osaka [4] bt Pliskova [7] 6-2 4-6 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS  
Osaka – 56/30
Pliskova – 20/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS  
Osaka – 15/3
Pliskova – 3/4

BREAK POINTS WON  
Osaka – 4/11
Pliskova – 2/8

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE  
Osaka – 58
Pliskova – 72

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE  
Osaka – 81/41
Pliskova – 69/32

TOTAL POINTS  
Osaka – 96
Pliskova – 85

Comments