Whether or not Naomi Osaka claims the Australian Open championship — and make no mistake, she will be expected to win — this much seems certain: Tennis has a new dominant force.
Sure, it’s clearly possible that Osaka could be beaten by the 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady in the title match at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
Brady is, after all, emerging as a force on hard courts, too, thanks to a big serve and big forehand. She pushed Osaka to three sets before losing to her in the U.S. Open semifinals last September, then shrugged off a two-week hard quarantine in Australia to reach her first Grand Slam final.
It is the No. 3-seeded Osaka, though, who overpowered and overwhelmed Serena Williams in the semifinals Thursday.
Who is riding a 20-match winning streak dating to last season.
Who already has spent time at No. 1 in the rankings.
Who is seeking her second Australian Open title and fourth Slam trophy — and she is still only 23.
Like 23-time major champion Williams, there is a determination that Osaka manages to display when the finish line is near on their sport's most important stages: She has run her record to a combined 11-0 in Grand Slam quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.