Naomi Osaka obliterates Jennifer Brady in Australian Open final


Naomi Osaka is the undisputed queen of women’s tennis.

The Japanese star was unstoppable as she won her fourth grand slam title by beating Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the Australian Open final on Saturday night.

Osaka, who progressed to the final after blowing Serena Williams away in the semis, was too classy and composed for Brady, who tasted defeat in the first major decider of her career.

The American has enjoyed a rapid rise in the past 12 months, making the US Open semi-finals last year and the final at Melbourne Park, but she’ll have to wait a little while longer for another chance at lifting some silverware at one of tennis’ four most prestigious tournaments.

Brady paid tribute to an “inspirational” Osaka in the post-match presentation while the winner also heaped praise on her opponent — but started off by savagely trolling her rival.

Osaka turned and asked Brady whether she preferred to be called Jennifer or Jenny. Brady said she preferred Jenny, so Osaka landed a final insult.

“Firstly, I want to congratulate Jennifer …” she said.

Maybe she didn’t hear Brady, or maybe it was intentional. Either way, it didn’t go unnoticed by the internet.

Osaka, who beat Brady in last year’s US Open semi-finals, congratulated the 25-year-old on going a step further and predicted many more clashes in the future.

“I told everyone who would listen that you’re going to be a problem, and I was right,” she said.

“I think we’re going to play a lot more matches, so here’s to that.”

Osaka also thanked her team and showed she has more perspective than some of her colleagues who complained about hotel quarantine, issuing a message about being able to play in the midst of a global pandemic, adding: “Playing a grand slam right now is a super privilege and it’s something I won’t take for granted.”

Osaka wasn’t at her absolute best in the first set, but she doesn’t need to be to beat most players. She benefited from Brady’s nerves as the world No. 24 struggled to land her first serves and made unforced errors at key moments that robbed her of the chance to land any killer blows.

The new world No. 2 targeted Brady’s backhand all night, knowing the forehand was a major weapon. But too often the debut grand slam finalist also made mistakes on her preferred wing, all but shutting down her hopes of victory.

Osaka knows what it takes to win on the big stage and by the time she’d raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set, the Japanese star had well and truly found her groove. The trademark power was in full swing as her ground strokes packed a punch that Brady couldn’t withstand.

Brady broke back then held comfortably for 2-4, but there was to be no miracle comeback as Osaka maintained her poker face and iced the match.

Osaka has now won all four major finals she’s appeared in — adding a second Australian Open crown to go with her two US Open titles.

The 23-year-old is also the first woman since Monica Seles in 1990-91 to emerge victorious from her first four grand slam finals.

Osaka blitzed through her opening service game to love in the first set and Brady was on track to do something similar, racing to a 40-0 lead on her own racquet.

But she stumbled and was forced into a couple of deuces, before holding her nerve and getting on the board for 1-1.

Osaka held easily again but Brady dropped to 0-40 in her next service game and a double fault — her third in two games — handed her opponent an easy break.

Osaka double faulted herself at deuce in the next game, then clunked a backhand halfway up the net to gift Brady a break of her own. The American was far more assured in her next service game and held confidently for 3-3.

But Brady was failing to land her first serves — normally a huge weapon — and the frustration was getting to her. She yelled out in anger, while the 25-year-old also struggled with the breeze on court, having to redo her ball toss multiple times.

Things stayed on serve at 4-5 before Brady choked badly — hitting a double fault, a forehand long past the baseline and another forehand into the net all in a row — as Osaka broke again to win the opening set 6-4.

The floodgates opened as Osaka won her sixth game in a row to take a 4-0 lead in the second set before Brady finally showed some fight. The former college star got a break back but it was too little, too late.

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US obliterates record as COVID-19 deaths top 3100 in a single day


“The mortality concerns are real and I do think unfortunately before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans that have died from this virus.”

The US death toll since the start of the pandemic stands at about 273,000.

Health authorities had warned that the numbers could fluctuate strongly before and after Thanksgiving, as they often do around holidays and weekends, when because of reporting delays, figures often drop, then rise sharply a few days later as state and local agencies catch up with the backlog.

Still, deaths, hospitalisations and cases in the US have been on a fairly steady rise for weeks, sometimes breaking records for days on end.

The US recorded 3157 deaths on Wednesday, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. That’s more than the number of people killed on 9/11, and it shattered the old mark of 2603, set on April 15, when the New York metropolitan area was the epicentre of the US outbreak.

The number of people in the hospital likewise set an all-time high on Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It has more than doubled over the past month.

Also, the number of newly confirmed infections climbed just over 200,000 on Wednesday for the second time in less than a week, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

Rural and suburban hospitals are particularly affected, threatening their economic viability, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, told MSNBC on Thursday.

“There’s no end in sight because there’s so much community spread,” Adalja said, warning that the pandemic could force hospital closures.

Still, rapid vaccine development, aided by the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” program, offered a ray of hope.

Britain on Wednesday gave emergency approval to Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, a sign that US regulators may soon follow suit and allow inoculations within weeks.

Former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have volunteered to get their COVID-19 jabs on television to help demonstrate their safety, CNN reported, citing press aides to Bush and Clinton and an Obama interview on Sirius XM radio.

“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science,” Obama said.

Meantime, the mayor of Los Angeles warned on Wednesday the city was nearing “a devastating tipping point” and ordered residents to stay in their homes and avoid social gatherings in new lockdown measures to rein in a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“Our city is now close to a devastating tipping point, beyond which the number of hospitalised patients would start to overwhelm our hospital system, in turn risking needless suffering and death,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said late on Wednesday.

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Los Angeles is the second-largest city in US and has a population of more than 3.9 million. Los Angeles county, which is home to the city, has recorded 414,185 infections and a death toll of 7,740, according to LA Public Health.

The way to avoid a “dreaded scenario” is to refrain from gathering with people from outside your household wherever possible, Garcetti said.

He also directed businesses requiring the presence of workers to close, and set restrictions on travel, but specified certain exceptions to both.

People may “lawfully” leave homes to engage in exempted activities like healthcare operations and to go to the supermarket, the directive said.

AP, with Reuters

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Mo Farah obliterates one-hour world record in return to the track


Mo Farah blitzed to a new world record in the rarely-run one-hour event on his return to the track on Friday at an empty Brussels stadium that also saw Sifan Hassan set a new best in the women’s equivalent race.

Three years after having opted for road running, Farah showed no sign of cobwebs as he ran 21.330 kilometres over the 60 minutes behind closed doors at the Brussels Diamond League meet at the King Baudouin Stadium.

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Farah, who won 5,000-10,000m doubles for Britain at both the London and Rio Olympics, bettered Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie’s previous best of 21.285km, set back in 2007, by 45 metres.

“I’m very pleased to break the world record today,” said Farah. “What an amazing way to do it and show people what is possible.”

It was a formidable record: the equivalent of 52-and-a-half laps at an average of 67 seconds per lap, or 2:47min per kilometre.

And at one stage, the 37-year-old Briton, also a six-time world gold medallist, looked to have dropped that vital programmed pace, with Belgian training partner Bashir Abdi still in the running.

There might have been no crowd thanks to coronavirus-induced health protocols, but the record attempt featured piped-in music, audience cheering and a visual time guidance aid: 400 LED lights installed in drainage covers that lit up to mirror the desired pace.

Farah and Abdi duly took note of the flashing lights and upped the pace to get back on record-setting time.

With five minutes to run, Abdi took the lead for the first time, sweeping Farah around on his coat-tails.

As the gun fired for the final minute, Farah opened up his rangy stride to shoot past the Belgian and maintain his form through to a second gunshot that ended the race.

While Farah holds every British record for all events between the 1,500m and marathon, it was his first ever world record.



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