Mendoza: Instinct tells me Osaka it is

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

Naomi Osaka of Japan has gripping concerns today when she battles Jennifer Brady, the dangerous American, for the Australian Open ladies crown in Melbourne.

The world No. 3 will stake her unbeaten streak of three majors against the 24th-ranked Brady. Osaka has won the 2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open and the 2020 US Open.

Brady is dangerous because in the 2020 US Open, she engaged Osaka in a grueling semifinal before yielding, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, allowing the Japanese to hold a 2-1 edge in their head-to-head duel before today’s showdown.

Brady earned praise from Osaka in that match.

“After I played her in the semis in New York, I knew she was going to do well,” Osaka said after her stunning semifinal win over Serena Williams Wednesday, Feb. 17, that sent the 23-time Grand Slam champion breaking down at the post-match presser.

That was a rare display of emotion for the usually steely Serena, who had hinted of retirement after saying, “I’m done,” before suddenly storming out of the press room to hide off tears.

At 39, Serena seemed to be surrendering to Father Time in her disastrous defeat to Osaka, 23.

Brady was ranked 41st when she barged into the 2020 US Open semifinal without losing a set. And, despite losing to Osaka, Brady, 25, felt uplifted with a new sense of belief and a ton of confidence.

“Having confidence from that match, I may have changed my life and my outlook in showing up at Grand Slams,” said Brady after her semifinal win over Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic.

I see a close match but instinct still tells me Osaka will defeat Brady.

And, yes, how come Rafael Nadal blew a two-sets-to-nil lead in dropping a five-setter to Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas in the men’s semis?

“Tennis isn’t a sport that is fair,” said Nadal, deflected in his bid for a record-breaking 21st Slam.

Will it be unfair, too, if Tsitsipas dethrones Novak Djokovic tomorrow? Umm.

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A birthday cake today for Dada (coach Dayong’s lone daughter), my beautiful granddaughter taking up Fine Arts at University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City. Make that lava chocolate. But to Dante T. Fernandez, it’d be a bottle of single malt for my bilas turning 85 years young today. Kampai / Prost /Salut / Cheers!