Kvitova, Osaka Battle for Number One Ranking Spot

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Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova meet in the Australian Open final today amid high emotional stakes and with the world number one ranking on the line.

Osaka, who received her US Open trophy in tears, and to boos, after Serena Williams’ meltdown, can become the first player since 2001 to follow her maiden Grand Slam title with another.

Kvitova, meanwhile, is in a first major final since being stabbed in 2016.

The winner will replace Simona Halep as world number one. The Melbourne match between fourth seed Osaka and eighth seed Kvitova, who have never met before, starts at 08:30 GMT.

Japanese 21-year-old Osaka is aiming to become the first player since American Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win back-to-back majors after a maiden triumph.

She hit 15 aces and 56 winners as she beat Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who knocked out 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams in the semi-finals.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, 28, eased to a 7-6 (7-2) 6-0 win over unseeded American Danielle Collins.

Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli said both finalists are “playing at their peak” but that Osaka has the edge over Czech Kvitova.

“Based on the level of tennis I saw in the semi-finals then I’d pick Osaka as the winner,” Bartoli said.

“And I think you have to say the player who has lifted a Slam most recently is the slight favourite.”

Osaka won the US Open in September by beating Williams in a dramatic final, although it was somewhat overshadowed by the American’s row with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams appealed for calm in her runner-up speech, asking her supporters to “give credit” to Osaka’s achievement, while the Japanese player pulled her visor down to hide her tears during the trophy ceremony.

Four months later, Osaka is back in another major final after becoming the first Japanese player to reach the Melbourne showpiece.