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Djokovic dominant, Osaka celebrates

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Novak Djokovic claimed a record seventh Australian Open crown yesterday as he demolished Rafa Nadal 6-3 6-2 6-3 in his most dominant Grand Slam win over the Spaniard.

The peerless Serb broke Nadal five times while conceding only a single break point to clinch his 15th Grand Slam title and third in succession after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

The pair’s 53rd Tour clash and eighth in a major final failed to live up to their great rivalry, as top seed Djokovic bulldozed through the first two sets with machine-like precision.

Having won only two points off Djokovic’s first seven service games, Nadal finally prised a break point in the fifth game of the third to get back on serve but it quickly disappeared in a maelstrom of power hitting.

Djokovic held serve, and knuckled down to complete an astonishing rout. He fired a furious forehand down the line to bring up two championship points, then sealed the title when the Spaniard sent a backhand long.

The Serb went down on his knees and shook his fists at the sky, roaring in triumph, having moved past Roger Federer and Roy Emerson’s six Melbourne titles to take sole ownership of the record.

Meanwhile, Japan rejoiced on Saturday as Naomi Osaka clinched her second consecutive Grand Slam title and reached world number one following her 7-6(2) 5-7 6-4 victory over Petra Kvitova in her singles final.

Naomi Osaka clinched her second consecutive Grand Slam title.Reuters

She became the first Japanese tennis player to win the Australian Open and the first Asian player to claim the world number one ranking.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the tributes following her victory in Melbourne.

“The thrill of a hard-fought victory! Congratulations on winning the Australian Open, Naomi Osaka,” Abe wrote on his official Twitter page.

“I am very proud of the emergence of a new queen. I look forward to your continued accomplishments.”

Her compatriot Kei Nishikori, who had to withdraw during his Australian Open quarter-final with Novak Djokovic through injury, also took to Twitter, congratulating Osaka with a series of thumbs-up, trophy and Japanese flag emojis.

Local television channels showed people in Tokyo gathering to snatch a copy of a special edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper detailing Osaka’s victory.

In the ski resort of Hakuba, which hosted events during the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, a small group of tennis fans celebrated as they watched the final at the local sports bar. “I am so pleased for Naomi, she deserved this win,” said 52-year-old local Hitomi Takeda.

“We are so happy for her as a Japanese,” added Keiko Kobayashi. “She is one of us and she represents us so well on the world stage.”

Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, has helped to break new ground in Japan, challenging the country’s traditional self-image as a racially homogenous country.

“My daughter is also half Japanese,” said Hitoshi Watanabe, as he bought a celebratory round of drinks at the Hakuba bar.

“Hopefully this gives her the motivation to do something the same. Anything she wants, she can now do.”

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