Fourth seed Naomi Osaka will face eighth seed Petra Kvitova in the Women’s Australian Open final on Saturday, starting at 8:30am GMT.
It has been a fascinating two weeks of tennis in Melbourne. The top two seeds, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, were both knocked out in the fourth round.
Former Grand Slam winners Sloane Stephens and Gabrine Muguruza failed to make the second week of the tournament.
Serena Williams’ quest to win an eighth Australian open was ended in the quarter finals. Williams was the pre-tournament favourite in 888sport’s Australian Open tennis odds.
More than a second Slam for Osaka and third Kvitova is on the line here. The pair are playing for the number one spot in the rankings too. This was the case last year, when Caroline Wozniacki claimed top spot by winning in Melbourne.
It might seem a minor thing to some, but it’s good to see a Grand Slam winner go to number one considering the number of players who retain a high ranking without a ever really performing on the biggest stage.
Osaka was number 72 in the world a year ago. Her ascent has been remarkable and reaching back-to-back Grand Slam finals is an extraordinary achievement in the Women’s game.
Osaka is just 21 years old. She is the future of women’s tennis. If she wins on Saturday, only three active players will have won more Grand Slam titles than her. Osaka is 23/20 to win the final.
Kvitova is experienced in the latter stages of Grand Slams too. The Czech left-hander is heading into her third Grand Slam final, having won her previous two, which were both at Wimbledon.
You have to go back to 2014 to find her last foray to a Slam final, but Kvitova’s journey to this final has been challenging.
Since suffering injuries when her apartment was broken into in late 2016, Kvitova has not made it past the third round of a Slam. She is back to playing her best tennis, though, as Danielle Collins found out on Thursday.
Collins stayed with Kvitova in the first set but was unable to get anywhere near her opponent in the second.
Kvitova won the match 7-6, 6-0, to maintain her record of not dropping a set in the tournament. 888sport tennis odds have 7/4 on Kvitova to win in straight sets once again.
Osaka had a more challenging semi-final match, needing three sets to beat Czech star Karolina Pliskova.
The Japanese right-hander has been taken to three sets in three of her previous four matches – that extra time on the court could make a difference against the comparatively rested Kvitova.
The pair are two of the best servers in the game. They have won over 80% of their service games so far this calendar year. At least one tie-break in the women's Australian Open final at 21/10 looks a really good price.
Osaka will look to stick at the baseline and grind Kvitova down. Kvitova has been blowing opponents away over the last two weeks, and Osaka’s best chance of victory is to force longer rallies and test Kvitova’s patience.
First serves will be crucial for both players, as they will both be very aggressive on each other’s second serves. This is an intriguing final, the 5/2 on over 27.5 games looks a good bet.
Kvitova is the favourite in 888sport's tennis betting at 7/10 to win her third Slam. Fatigue is a concern for Osaka, who I really liked at 9/1 to go all the way pre-tournament.
It should be an epic at Rod Laver Arena. Osaka to win 2-1 at 19/5 is the best value in the match, and the start will be especially key, considering she has won her last 59 matches when she has taken the first set.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*