United States' Jennifer Brady holds her runners-up trophy after she lost to Japan's Naomi Osaka in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

Naomi Osaka wins Australian Open

Jennifer Brady’s Australian adventure began with 15 days of hard quarantine — stuck in her hotel room because she might have been exposed to COVID-19 while travelling to the country — and ended with her playing for the championship at Melbourne Park.

The 25-year-old American won’t be leaving with the Australian Open title after losing to Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday. Brady does depart with a strong sense that she deserves a spot in her sport’s upper echelon.

“I mean, I made my first Grand Slam final. So maybe if I wasn’t in quarantine, I would have won. Maybe,” she said with a smile. “Yeah, I don’t think it really hampered me much. Who knows? You know, you really don’t know.”

Brady, who is from Pennsylvania and played college tennis at UCLA, was one of 72 players who needed to go into hard lockdown for at least two weeks after they were on a chartered flight with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival in Australia.

She couldn’t leave her room for any reason at all, so there was a lot of FaceTiming with friends, ordering in food for delivery — and hitting tennis balls against a bed mattress.

Brady was the only singles player in that group who made it to Week 2 of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament and thought perhaps the break from routine did her some good, allowing her to rest physically and mentally.

In the biggest match of her career, Brady was even at 4-all at the outset before some jittery mistakes led to a six-game run for Osaka that changed the complexion of things.

Still, Brady leaves with a self-belief she never used to have.

“I belong at this level. I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable. It’s within reach,” said Brady, who will rise from No. 24 to No. 13 in the WTA rankings. “Playing out there, obviously, I was nervous. Didn’t go my way. But at the same time, coming off court, I was, like, ‘OK, that feels a little bit normal.’ It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like. If you were to ask me maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t think it’s possible — or it would feel like it’s like going to Mars.”

She has come so far, so fast, and points to two key factors that helped her: beginning to work with coach Michael Geserer in 2019, and playing against — and practicing with — elite players, which showed her that she could trade swings with the best the sport has to offer.

Consider her resume: When the Australian Open began two weeks ago, Brady’s career record in the tournament was 3-3, including first-round exits last year and in 2018, plus a loss in qualifying in 2019.

Her Grand Slam record was 15-14, and her overall tour-level mark as a pro was below .500, at 54-57.

She owned one career title, which arrived at Lexington, Kentucky, last August, right after tennis resumed following a five-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Brady’s Grand Slam breakthrough came when she made it all the way to the semifinals of the U.S. Open in September.

Ran into Osaka there, too, pushing her to three sets before losing.

“I don’t think, you know, she’s God,” Brady said about Osaka, who is now a four-time major champion at age 23. “I think maybe Serena (Williams) is. Maybe she’ll get there.”

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. Health Canada is just “days away” from approving Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, adding a fourth option to Canada’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Health Canada just days away from decision on Johnson and Johnson vaccine

Johnson and Johnson was authorized in the United States last weekend

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Health Tyler Shandro to announce investments to reduce surgery wait times. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)
More than 16K surgeries, procedures delayed in Alberta due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has delayed more than 16,000 surgeries and procedures in Alberta, as… Continue reading

Quinn Mason died from an opioid overdose at the age of 23 in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta mother whose son died from overdose advocates for ‘change’

It’s been about nine months since her son died from an overdose,… Continue reading

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Majority of Albertans to receive first shot before June 30: Shandro

Shandro says all Albertans should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Dillon Dube scores hat trick for Flames in 7-3 win over Senators

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp gives instructions during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Phil Noble, Pool via AP)
Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Liverpool slumps to historic 5th straight loss at Anfield

Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry (35) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Flyers rally from early deficit to stun Penguins 4-3

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen reacts to a goal by Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny, left, during first-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Pierre-Luc Dubois scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets edge Montreal Canadiens 4-3

Toronto Raptors guard Terence Davis (0) shoots after grabbing a rebound against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Boston. At right is Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

Tatum scores 27, Celtics outlast depleted Raptors 132-125

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel answers a question during a news conference addressing hockey issues at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The International Ice Hockey Federation has confirmed the postponement of the women's world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May 6-16. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Mark Humphrey
IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

IIHF postpones women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia to May

Quebec Premier François Legault chairs a virtual news conference Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. The premiers from the left are: John Horgan, B.C.; Jason Kenney, Alberta; Scott Moe, Saskatchewan; Legault, Quebec; Brian Pallister, Manitoba; Doug Ford, Ontario; and Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Most Read