Jennifer Brady reaches first
Slam final at Australian Open
Victoria Chiesa | February 18, 2021
Jennifer Brady's stunning summer Down Under will conclude by playing for a Grand Slam title.
With a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 25 seed Karolina Muchova in Thursday's semifinals, the American No. 22 seed advanced to Saturday's Australian Open final, where she will face three-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka.
Osaka, the 2019 winner Down Under, returned to the showpiece match thanks to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Serena Williams in the day's first semifinal.
Brady had surrendered only 26 games in her first five matches Down Under, the fewest games dropped out of the four semifinalists. However, after coming from a set down to beat compatriot and good friend Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals, Brady was again stretched the distance by Muchova, but took the lead early in the final set and hardly looked back to book a place in her first Slam final.ADVERTISEMENT
"I wouldn't say I'm in disbelief. I have definitely been practicing hard. I think I have earned the right to be sitting here, to be playing in a final, in a Grand Slam final on Saturday," Brady told reporters after the match.
"I have put in a lot of work, and I just think it's crazy to believe -- like you just look at even watching a Grand Slam final, you look at two players and you're, like, 'Wow, that's awesome that they're in the final.' You don't think about what it feels like if you were in that situation, so I think just that, just it's the tails have turned and I'm here. I'm in that situation."
The former UCLA Bruin ultimately sealed a spot in her first Grand Slam final by winning a titanic final game on serve: having lost just four points on serve in the deciding set previously, the American was victorious on her fifth match in a six-deuce service game, where she erased three chances for the Czech to level at 5-5.
"My legs are shaking and my heart is racing. I don't have words," Brady said on-court after the match. "After the first set, I was like, 'Okay, let's try to focus here, Jenny.' I was feeling a little strange today. I was super excited but at the same time, I was pretty flat-footed. My legs were fresh but at the same time, they weren't moving. I felt like I was stuck in mud. I really didn't pick up my intensity until the beginning of the third set."
Brady and Osaka will meet for the fourth time overall and second time in a Grand Slam. Last summer in New York, the pair played a classic semifinal under the lights inside Arthur Ashe Stadium that was won by Osaka, 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3, on her way to the title.
"I don't know how I'm gonna feel on Saturday. I can say I can enjoy the moment and just try to play tennis and not really think too much about it, but there's gonna be moments, there's gonna be games, there's gonna be points where I'm going to be thinking about, 'Wow, this could be my first Grand Slam title.' I will definitely have those thoughts. But it's more just trying to control the emotions," Brady said.
"I think we both played a really good semifinal match at the US Open. Unfortunately there were no fans, but the next time we play there will be fans. So I think that's going to be something that's going to be extremely exciting."
Also representing the U.S. efforts heading into the weekend are doubles players Rajeev Ram and Desirae Krawczyk. Ram punched his ticket into the mixed doubles final alongside Czech Barbora Krejcikova with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Aussies Marc Polmans and Storm Sanders. The pair were the 2019 champions in mixed, but did not play together in 2020 as Ram chose not to participate in mixed. The defensing champion in men's doubles with Brit Joe Salisbury, Ram will look to reach the final for the second straight year when the two face Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares on Friday.
Looking to face Ram and Krejcikova in the mixed final is Krawczyk, partnered with Salisbury. The two will play Aussie wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matt Ebden in the semifinals.