Naomi Osaka sets up Australian Open final showdown with Petra Kvitova after overcoming Karolina Pliskova

Naomi Osaka is through to her second successive grand slam final - AP
Naomi Osaka is through to her second successive grand slam final - AP

US Open champion Naomi Osaka staved off a fightback from Karolina Pliskova to reach her maiden Australian Open final with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win and set up a title clash with double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Osaka hit winners almost at will from both her forehand and backhand and broke Pliskova's service games twice and didn't face a single break point as she cantered through the first set.

Pliskova, who had saved four match points against Serena Williams in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, failed to live up to her reputation as a big server but showed plenty of fighting spirit to level the match with a second break at 5-4 after the players had an early trade of breaks.

Osaka saved three break points in her opening service game of the deciding set and then broke in the next for a 2-1 lead and crucially kept her composure from there on.

She sealed it with her 15th ace after an hour and 53 minutes of action.

Pliskova on the attack - Credit: Getty Images
Pliskova battled back in the second set but missed three chances to break early on in the decider Credit: Getty Images

Osaka will meet another Czech in Kvitova, who will compete in her first grand slam final in five years after defeating unseeded American Danielle Collins 7-6(2), 6-0 in the first semi-final.

As well as the title, the world No 1 ranking will also be on the line on Saturday, with Kvitova and Osaka both looking to get there for the first time.


And then there were two...

Osaka will take on Petra Kvitova in Saturday's final and neutrals won't begrudge either woman ending the fortnight with the Daphne Akhurst trophy under their arms.

For Kvitova, she will be contesting her first slam final outside of Wimbledon and her first since the horrific knife attack she suffered in December 2016.

Osaka, meanwhile, is still on course to become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to back up winning their debut major with a second straight title at the next slam. Capriati won her double in Melbourne and Wimbledon 18 years ago.


Osaka speaks

I was expecting a hard battle. I tried to regroup in the third set. Experience playing matches like this helped. I was so scared serving second serves. Somehow I made it. 

I like the heat so was sad (the room was closed). They had the roof open earlier and I was thinking 'this is my time to shine'. 



Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4, 4-6 Osaka (*next server)

Osaka shepherds the first service return behind the line. That's the first point done. She puffs out her cheeks, shakes her shoulders after dumping a groundstroke into the middle. She goes again. A wayward forehand from Pliskova hands Osaka a free point for 30-15. At least she gives the next second serve short shrift for 30-all.

Osaka pulls out her quickly first serve of the match and mops up the return with a volley to set up match point. She thinks she's taken it with an ace and looks to the stands. It was called out. She doesn't realise. She challenges. It was good. GAME, SET AND MATCH: OSAKA BEATS PLISKOVA 6-2, 4-6, 6-4



Pliskova 2-6, 6-4, 4-5 Osaka* (*next server)

Heat back on Pliskova. She was cool as you like against Serena yesterday and uses that as a positive memory to serve her way to 30-0. Osaka is bouncing away, punching her legs and doing everything in her power to get the job done as quickly as possible. It's working she's back in at 30-all with a forehand winner into the corner.

Gutsy from Pliskova as she stays focused to send her own backhand winner out of Osaka's reach for 40-30. Osaka has a look at a second serve but strikes long. She'll have to serve it out instead.


Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4, 3-5 Osaka (*next server)

Osaka shows signs of nerves, missing a regulation backhand with plenty of time on her side.

But Pliskova too lets adrenaline get the better of her as she pushes long with a second serve for 30-15. Osaka's paying for her missed first serves now as Pliskova hangs around for 40-30 and then deuce. From a position of control, Osaka is in the thick of it again.

Another first serve goes begging, she slaps her thigh and then pushes long in response to a deep return from Pliskova. Is the momentum about to switch again this set?

Perhaps not. Osaka thunders down ace No 14 and then sets up advantage as a ball skids off the surface and catches Pliskova out on the baseline. Osaka backs it up with a first serve. She holds. A big, big hold.



Pliskova 2-6, 6-4, 3-4 Osaka* (*next server)

The body serve works a treat for Pliskova for 30-0 before Osaka swipes a backhand return flying past the seventh seed. Pliskova holds to 15. She retreats to her chair contemplating her next move.


Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4, 2-4 Osaka (*next server)

Great serving from Osaka. She's not giving Pliskova a chance to make inroads. For the second successive game she holds to love.


Pliskova 2-6, 6-4, 2-3 Osaka* (*next server)

Crucial for Pliskova to hold now. Her first serve is back on song. She surges to 40-0 before Osaka punches a second serve into the middle.

Pliskova locked in battle with Osaka - Credit: AP
Pliskova locked in battle with Osaka Credit: AP



Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4, 1-3 Osaka (*next server)

Errors creeping up on Pliskova now as Osaka returns to her place of calm. The Japanese continues her purple patch with a 10th straight point for three game points. Pliskova stops the rot with a delicate drop shot. But an 11th ace secures the break for Osaka.


Pliskova 2-6, 6-4, 1-2 Osaka* (*next server)

Pressure now on Pliskova's serve as Osaka arches a backhand winner for 0-30. She copes well with a body serve to send an outswinging forehand into the opposite corner for three break points. The momentum has swung. Pliskova pushes a backhand long. OSAKA BREAKS. 


Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4, 1-1 Osaka (*next server)

Osaka affords herself a little chuckle as she strikes into the middle. She's trying to stay calm and composed but Pliskova is slowing getting under her skin.

A brilliant backhand winner edges Osaka in front but the deep hitting from the Czech is just too good. The Japanese thinks about swiping her racket as Pliskova moves to break point. She refrains from breaking her tool and was right to do so. She powers a forehand into the corner, out of Pliskova's reach. But Pliskova keeps pressing, forcing another break point. But Osaka is digging deep. A backhand into the corner, her 44th winner of the match so far, keeps her alive. Pliskova serenely strolls into court to smash almost a delicate overhead into the corner. It's a third break. But again, Osaka fights and makes Pliskova hit into the middle. 'Cmon' Osaka yells as Pliskova, a fan of the racket smash herself, gives her instruction a half-swipe into the hard court.

Osaka finally gets over the line and moves her visor over her eyes in relief. Three break points saved.


Pliskova 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 Osaka* (*next server)

Pliskova handily serving first at the start of the decider. Osaka does her best to deal with a body serve but Pliskova's deep hitting is now causing the Japanese a few headaches. Osaka injects some pace into the next rally and draws the error from her rival to hang in at 40-30.

But an ace which sees both women statue like almost awaiting a call or some sort of reaction before Pliskova starts walking to make the changeover.



Pliskova* 2-6, 6-4 Osaka (*next server)

Oor er. Osaka flings a forehand long at the start of a crucial game. She takes her time lining up for he next serve and then pushes long. Pliskova gets another lucky break off the net cord. The Czech's game face is on. In a flash, Pliskova has three set points. Osaka slaps her racket against an ankle three times. Pliskova is all over Osaka and the Japanese is fighting hard at the baseline. Her resistance breaks. PLISKOVA WINS SECOND SET. 


Pliskova 2-6, 5-4 Osaka* (*next server)

Just as Pliskova looks to be gathering momentum, Osaka keeps on prodding her. A 40th winner from the fourth seed followed by a double add to the pressure at 30-all. Pliskova pulls out a big first serve and forces the error from Osaka which draws a shriek from the US Open champ. Osaka will come out in a moment serving to stay in the second set.


Pliskova* 2-6, 4-4 Osaka (*next server)

Osaka continues to out-ace her big-serving rival with a ninth ace. Pliskova gives a slower second serve short shrift to edge 15-30. She's got her sprinting boots on chasing down a whipped forehand from Osaka deep to the corner, but she hasn't the power or angle to make the return. Cool as you like from Osaka as she keeps shouting the 'c'mons' and keeping her energy levels high. But Pliskova is playing some of her best tennis of the match, pushing a backhand into the corner to hang around at deuce.

Pliskova's 'lights-out' tennis is making Osaka rethink her approach. The Czech has another break point. What a chance. Osaka slams the door drilling a forehand down the line.

Osaka keeps pumping her fist on every point won. And deserves to after winning the game with a brilliant winner off her forehand wing. A super hold.

Nicole Kidman and Vogue chief editor Anna Wintour take in the semi-final - Credit: AFP
Nicole Kidman and Vogue chief editor Anna Wintour take in the semi-final Credit: AFP



Pliskova 2-6, 4-3 Osaka* (*next server)

A backhand cross-court winner gets Osaka on the board at 30-15 but Pliskova closes the door with her incredibly only her first ace of the match. She's the Ace Queen on Tour but Osaka has been able to reach to most angles this morning.

Pliskova looks in bewilderment at a reply from Osaka for 40-30 but another first serve keeps the scoreboard ticking along.


Pliskova* 2-6, 3-3 Osaka (*next server)

Apologies, but my computer suddenly decided to die a death on me for a couple of minutes and have an unnecessary and untimely reboot. At least we're back up and running again. No breaks of serve since the downtime. It remains finely poised this set.


Pliskova 2-6, 2-1 Osaka* (*next server)

The first cry of 'C'Mon' from Osaka now as she shakes off that break to keep annoying Pliskova at the opposite end with winner after winner. This time its's Osaka who gets the rub of the green of a clip of the tape. It brings up three break points. Pliskova keeps battling. She saved four match points against Serena yesterday remember. And this time she saves three break points with some fantastic deep hitting and forcing Osaka to play one more shot.

Pliskova wins her fifth straight point with a swinging forehand out wide. That sends a great message to Osaka that she won't be pushed aside. A great hold.


Pliskova* 2-6, 1-1 Osaka (*next server)

The net cord comes to Pliskova's aid again, this time throwing Osaka's focus as the fourth seed hits into the tramlines for 15-30. Osaka has time on her side at the net but fires straight into the net. Pliskova has two break points, the first of the match. Osaka thunders down her sixth ace. But pushes wide during the next point. PLISKOVA BREAKS. 



Pliskova 2-6, 0-1 Osaka* (*next server)

Pressure straight away on Pliskova's serve at the start of the set. The Czech gets a lucky break at 0-30 as an Osaka reply catches the tape and allows Pliskova to pass.

Osaka is all over a slow second serve to catch Pliskova cold on the baseline for another break point. Pliskova can't dig the ball out from her feet and it's one-way traffic. OSAKA BREAKS.  


Pliskova* 2-6 Osaka (*next server)

Composed from Osaka serving for the set. She's well set at 30-15 and then sets up set point at 40-30. A third ace of the game secure the set. OSAKA WINS FIRST SET. 



Pliskova 2-5 Osaka* (*next server)

Good play from Pliskova as she sweeps forehands into both corners quite perfectly as she too now starts to increase her winners count. Just as Pliskova gets her nose in front, Osaka comes back at 30-all with a running forehand winner and then has another break point when Pliskova is put under pressure on the baseline.

Pliskova keeps her cool, striking a beautiful backhand winner down the line to keep Osaka at bay. The seventh seed glides around the court effortlessly while Osaka is like an annoying fly that won't go away despite constant swiping in front of the face. The winners keep coming from the Japanese to set up a second break point this game. Pliskova misses a first serve and then sends down her third double of the match. OSAKA BREAKS AGAIN. 


Pliskova* 2-4 Osaka (*next server)

Osaka's first service percentage drops to 56 but her groundstrokes are helping her out in sticky patches. A couple of punching forehand winners into opposite corners for her ninth and 10th winners of the match ensure a comfortable hold.


Pliskova 2-3 Osaka* (*next server)

A kicked serve baffles Osaka as Pliskova brings up three game points. She holds to love for the first time when Osaka pulls her return wide.


Pliskova* 1-3 Osaka (*next server)

Confident still from Osaka as she motors to 30-0 before Pliskova hits deep into the corner and mops up at the net to volley a winner into the opposite corner.

The Czech misses her chance on a slower second serve, sending her return long. Osaka backs up the break with a solid hold.


Pliskova 1-2 Osaka* (*next server)

Osaka wins the backhand-to-backhand exchange and keeps bouncing on the baseline to get the blood pumping through her legs. Her urgency and positive approach pays off. Another double from Pliskova hands Osaka two break points this time round. Pliskova works her rival into the corners, trying to create the space to execute the winner. Osaka keeps fighting on the baseline but hits into the middle. Pliskova saves the second with a good body serve for deuce.

Osaka won't go away. She is allowed time to drill a backhand winner down the line for a third break point. The Japanese targets Pliskova's backhand which creates the room to drill another backhand winner inside the line. OSAKA BREAKS.


Pliskova* 1-1 Osaka (*next server)

Nerves now from Osaka as a double hands Pliskova a mini-break at 0-30. She's struggling to find a first serve. But she can unleash a powerful backhand winner and deep hitting to bring her opponent back ta 30-all.

An ace down the T moves Osaka in control but Pliskova keeps pressing and wins the first forehand-to-forehand battle.

Osaka relaxes into her rhythm and despite a couple of deuces has her first game on the board.


Pliskova 1-0 Osaka* (*next server)

The seventh seed Pliskova opens up the serving but shows signs of nerves at sending down a double to hand Osaka a first break point at 30-40.

Pliskova saves it with a solid serve down the T and backs it up with a body serve to turn to the game in her favour. With heavy strapping round her left knee, Pliskova wins the longest rally so far when Osaka loops a ground-stroke long.


Kvitova books place in final

Pliskova would secure an all-Czech final with victory over Osaka after Petra Kvitova came through the first semi-final with victory over Danielle Collins under the roof on Rod Laver Arena.

With temperatures soaring towards 40C in Melbourne, the tournament's new extreme heat policy came into play and the roof was closed with the score at 4-4 in the first set.

Kvitova, who has struggled in the past in hot conditions, found the cooler temperatures much more to her liking and powered to a 7-6 (2) 6-0 victory in an hour and 34 minutes.



How will Pliskova show up after Serena surprise?

Just 24 hours after saving four match points to stun Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova goes up against US Open champion Naomi Osaka for a place in Saturday's Australian Open final.

The Czech showed incredible mental strength to overcome the 23-times grand slam champion in a dramatic contest on Rod Laver Arena after slipping 5-1 down in the deciding set to eventually win through 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Pliskova's victory earned her a semi-final appearance against Osaka and thereby denied the tennis world of a rematch of the US Open final.

Osaka has been quietly going about her own business, dropping just two sets over the last 11 days. The Japanese demolished WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina for the loss of five games in her quarter-final on Wednesday night. It extended her grand slam run to 12 matches and she will certainly be the fresher of the two for their contest.

Pliskova has the edge in their head-to-heads, winning two of their three matches including their most recent in the final of Tokyo last September when Osaka was still riding high after her maiden major breakthrough - albeit one in controversial circumstances.

This is also uncharted territory for both woman at the Aussie Open with Pliskova going one round better than her back-to-back quarter-final appearances in 2017 and 2018.

Osaka, meanwhile, has gone even deeper than her best of last year when she suffered a fourth-round loss to eventual finalist Simona Halep.