An American woman will play for the Australian Open title but her name is not Serena Williams.
After Serena lost to Naomi Osaka in the first semifinal Thursday, former UCLA star and No. 22 seed Jen Brady advanced to her first Grand Slam final with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 25 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. Muchova had stunned world No. 1 Ash Barty in the quarterfinals.
The final will feature a rematch of last fall’s U.S. Open semifinal, won by Osaka in three tight sets. Osaka went on to win the title while honoring African-American victims of police violence with a series of masks, and will be a big favorite as she seeks her fourth major title. Osaka, 23, is 2-1 against Brady, 25.
“I’m obviously pretty excited to be in the finals here at the Australian Open,” she said in her on-court interview.
“It’s an incredible achievement. I think it will be a really tough match, obviously. She’s won a few Grand Slams. We had a tough match at the U.S. Open in the semifinals. I think she even said that it was one of her top matches, which was a little bit unfortunate for me at the time. I think it will be a really good match and I hope you gusy [the fans] can come out and enjoy it.”
Brady advanced to her maiden Slam final despite being one of 72 players who spent 24 hours a day in a hotel room for 14 days prior to the tournament due to Covid-19 protocols established by the Victorian government.
The winner of Saturday’s title will earn $2.1 million, while the runner-up will take home 1.2 million. Brady has career earnings of a little over $2 million.
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After they split the first two sets, Brady secured a 3-1 lead in the third when Muchova sailed a forehand wide on break point. Brady held throughout the set, closing it out with some major heat in her final service game.
After Muchova saved four match points and Brady one break point, Brady closed it out when Muchova sailed a forehand long. Brady fell to her back on the court, raised her first and embraced Muchova at the net.
“I can’t feel my legs,” Brady, overcome with emotion, said in her on-court interview. “My legs are shaking, my heart is racing.”
Brady, a national champion at UCLA in 2014, has been red-hot since winning her maiden WTA title last August in Lexington, where she handled fellow American Coco Gauff in the semifinals before dispatching Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in the final.
The Harrisburg, Pa., native then reached the semis of the U.S. Open and pushed Osaka to the brink.
“I think she really is starting to believe that she can make a run and win a Slam,” Stella Sampras, the UCLA women’s coach and sister of Pete Sampras, said going into the U.S. Open.
Now she’s one match win from a Grand Slam title.
“I’m sure I’ll be nervous but I’m going to be super-excited,” she said.