I'm honoured to have played you - Champion Osaka hails Kvitova
Naomi Osaka paid a gracious tribute to Petra Kvitova after defeating the Czech in a classic Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.
The WTA's number-one ranking was on the line on Saturday and it was US Open champion Osaka who ultimately prevailed, winning 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 despite spurning three championship points when leading 5-3 in the second set.
Osaka's second successive slam triumph denied Kvitova a fairytale victory, in the two-time Wimbledon champion's first major final since she suffered career-threatening injuries to her left hand in a knife attack at her home in December 2016.
Referencing that horrendous incident in the post-match presentation inside Rod Laver Arena, Osaka addressed her opponent and said: "Huge congrats to you, Petra. I've always wanted to play you. You've been through so much and honestly I wouldn't have wanted this to be our first match, but huge congrats to you and your team.
"You're really amazing and I'm really honoured to have played you in the final of a grand slam."
Naomi Osaka.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 26, 2019
2018 Indian Wells Champion
2018 US Open Champion
2019 Australian Open Champion @WTA World No.1.
Kvitova was understandably emotional in her own speech, as she thanked those who helped her return to the top of the game.
"It's crazy. I cannot believe I just played the final of a grand slam again," said the 28-year-old, who deservedly earned a huge ovation from the crowd.
"It was a great final. Well done, Naomi, your team as well. You really played well and congrats for being number one as well.
"It's a great tournament for me and a great honour to hold this beautiful [runner-up] trophy. It's been a while to be in a final for me. I want to say thank you to everyone who made this possible.
"To my team, thank you for everything, but mostly thank you for sticking with me even when we didn't know if I would be able to hold a racquet again.
"You were there every single day, supporting me and staying positive for me, which I really needed. It probably wasn't that easy, so thank you so much."