A day after erasing four match points and a 5-1 deficit in the third set to stun Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, Pliskova could not produce the same kind of comeback. Instead it is Osaka, the only Japanese woman to win a major singles title, who will face two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Saturday. The winner will rise to the top of the WTA rankings for the first time; Osaka is currently No. 4, Kvitova is No. 6. Osaka’s fourth-round finish at Melbourne Park a year ago was her best showing at a major until last year’s U.S. Open, where she outplayed Williams in the final. A victory over Kvitova would make Osaka the first woman to win two Slams in a row since Williams claimed four straight across the 2014-15 seasons. Two years ago, Kvitova missed the Australian Open, just weeks after her left hand was stabbed by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic. Back at her best during what she calls her “second career,” Kvitova surged to a 7-6 (2), 6-0 victory against 35th-ranked American Danielle Collins after Rod Laver Arena’s retractable roof was closed as the temperature soared toward 105 degrees (40 Celsius).
#AusOpen title isn’t the only thing on the line.Whoever wins the final will be the new world No.1 pic.twitter.com/5bKrBPIRxG — #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2019
Against Collins, a two-time NCAA champion at the University of Virginia who was 0-5 at Slams until this one, Kvitova was more aggressive throughout, mixing big lefty forehands and well-timed pushes forward to the tune of a 30-9 edge in total winners. But the key to the outcome might very well have been what happened at 4-all after 35 minutes of action: That’s when the decision finally was made to close the 15,000-seat stadium’s cover, drawing cheers of approval from broiling spectators. Kvitova probably wanted to applaud, too. “I was happier than the fans that the roof closed,” she said afterward. “I like to play indoors. It helped me a little bit.” She’s made clear over the years she is not a huge fan of playing in stifling heat. Not too many people truly are, of course, but Collins is OK with it and thought the roof should have stayed open. “I grew up in Florida and am used to it being really hot all the time. So I kind of embrace that very well,” Collins said. “Indoor tennis is a different game. Certainly had its effect.”
Eight different women have won the last eight Slams.Either Kvitova will make it nine or Osaka will win back-to-back majors. pic.twitter.com/JT1MkCUWMk — Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) January 24, 2019