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Saturday Sports: Naomi Osaka Wins Australian Open, Earning Fourth Grand Slam Title

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's nice to say it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Naomi Osaka's won her fourth Grand Slam title, the Australian Open, today in straight sets - 6-4, 6-3 - over Jennifer Brady. A couple of guys play tomorrow. ESPN's Howard Bryant joins us now.

(Unintelligible) Hi there, Howard. I beg your pardon.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Goodness, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm excited, obviously.

BRYANT: You obviously must have been up all night watching that epic match.

SIMON: No, but I did get up early, as I have to, to come into the show and checked in on it. Naomi Osaka was overpowering in this tournament. At the age of 23, she's obviously on a winning streak. What do we take from her championship win today?

BRYANT: Yeah, well, it's - what you take from it is, is that they're starting to get to be a little separation. There had been - there's obviously one person at the king - the queen of the mountain, of course, and it's Serena Williams. And she has been so dominant for so long. And in between that, you've got a lot of depth in the WTA.

And now you've got one player who's really starting to separate from the rest of the pack, and it's Naomi Osaka. Not only was she dominant in this tournament; this is her second major in a row. She already won the U.S. Open back in September. And the way she did this was in very much dominant fashion. She - not only does she win in straight sets to win the championship, but obviously in the semifinal, she destroyed Serena Williams and - in a way that made you look and say, oh. It's one of those matches where you say, oh, not just changing of the guard, but we have one player who's really, really different than the others.

And to the fact that she was down in the round of 16 - she's down to match point. She's down five - she's down to match point. She's down 5-3, 15-40 against Garbine Muguruza, who also has two - you know, she's got two Grand Slams herself. So it's not like she was playing poor competition. It was, you know, the monster draw there. And she just came through it and wins four straight matches and just finished in such a way where you looked and you noticed that this is a player that is - she's different. No question.

SIMON: You know, I'm very moved by the fact - Naomi Osaka's father has talked about seeing the Williams sisters play when Naomi was, you know, just a gifted youngster and wanting to emulate them. Some observers are inferring significance from Serena Williams' appearance - remarks to reporters this week after she was defeated.

BRYANT: Yeah, Serena has not said anything about retiring. And when she walked off the court, she gave a long farewell. When we're at 39 years old, you look and say, OK, next year is a long time from now. And is she coming back? Was she saying thank you, or was she saying goodbye? It's going to be speculation all throughout the year, depending on what happens when you're - Serena is going to be 40 in September.

So I understand the question about whether or not she's going to play. However, she did not announce her retirement. She's not even hinted at retirement. But at this stage, you start to wonder how many more times, especially when you only play these tournaments once a year, you wonder how many more times we're going to see the great Serena Williams.

And it was poignant. It was a great tournament for her. It looked like she had a great shot to win this tournament in some ways. And then you started getting to the tail end of that tournament, and you started to see that Osaka - what are you going to do? She does everything Serena does, but she's 16 years younger. That's a tall ask for a player at that stage in her career.

SIMON: ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much for being with us. As we said, a couple of guys play tomorrow. Talk to you later, my friend.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.