MELBOURNE, Australia - The Australian Open title and World No.1 ranking are on the line on Saturday at Melbourne Park, where 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka faces off against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova for the first time in their careers.
Five burning questions we have for this hotly-anticipated duel between two of the game's pre-eminent gunslingers:
In a match-up of power vs. power, who will adjust?
Kvitova and Osaka are used to being in control. Win or lose, these two powerful, aggressive hitters can take the racquet out of their opponent's hands or hit themselves off the court with ill-timed errors. Either way, Kvitova and Osaka both admit it's a rare, uncomfortable feeling when they feel their own destiny is not in their control.
And in this match-up, that's precisely what could happen on Saturday.
"I don't know how I'm going to feel," Kvitova said on the WTA Insider Podcast ahead of the final. "If that comes it comes. I don't think I will be frustrated or something. I think if she will hit 100 winners she will hit it and I will be the second player on the court and I'm going to take it.
"I think tomorrow the better one will win and that's how it is. Sometimes that happens, and if it happens then it happens."
Osaka also admitted the idea of being overwhelmed by Kvitova's power was not something he has had much experience with.
"Interestingly, I did have a match like that," Osaka said on the WTA Insider Podcast after her semifinal win over Karolina Pliskova. "It was against Sabalenka at the US Open. That second set, man. Yikes. She was playing amazing and I was like what am I supposed to do at this point?
"For me, it's rare to have feelings like that and I don't want to have feelings like that. At that point I'm just going to try for every point that I can. I'm going to reach and I'm going to try and serve well. Hopefully I won't get broken.
"But she's a really great player so I don't know what's going to happen."
Hear the full interviews with both Kvitova and Osaka on the WTA Insider Podcast below:
How will Osaka deal with Kvitova's left-handed game?
From a tactical perspective, Kvitova's left-handed game should prove to be a new challenge for Osaka. The 21-year-old has never played Kvitova before and she has played just 8 matches against left-handed opposition in her WTA career, tallying a 3-5 record.
"She adjusts pretty well," Osaka's coach Sascha Bajin told reporters. "She reads the opponent actually pretty well. Makes my job a lot easier.
"We had a lefty out today just to hit a couple of serves today, just to get ready a little bit. But, yeah, thankfully she's just so good at picking this up, and hopefully it will work out tomorrow."
Will Kvitova successfully attack Osaka's second serve?
Osaka has served over 60% of her first serves in in every match of the tournament except her semifinal against Pliskova, where her percentage dropped to 58% in the match. She joked that her anxiety in the final set came from the fact she was scared to hit second serves to Pliskova, who began to feast on the shot as the match rolled on. Osaka is averaging a 50% success rate behind her second serve for the tournament, but against Pliskova she was winning just 41%.
Osaka's second serve is the more attackable of the two. Though she has the bigger serve, Osaka's average speed on second serve is 125.9 kph compared to Kvitova's 147 kph.
But Kvitova failed to take advantage of Danielle Collins' low first serve percentage in the first set of their semifinal, which saw Collins serve at 41% first serves in yet win 63% of her second serve points.
Who will win the longer rallies?
In the perfect world, Osaka and Kvitova want bang-bang points. But who will prevail when the rallies are extended past 5 shots? Osaka has played 79 points with rallies of 9+ shots in the tournament, winning 43 of them (54.4%). Kvitova, who has enjoyed a more dominant run to the final, has played 39 points over 9 shots, winning 25 of them (64.1%).
Can Kvitova keep that success rate against a battle-tested Osaka? The youngster has had to battle through three tough three-set matches to earn great wins over the crafty likes of Hsieh Su-Wei and Anastasija Sevastova, and Kvitova's powerful compatriot Pliskova.
Kvitova's average rally length for the tournament has been 3.21 shots per rally, peaking at 3.75 against Ashleigh Barty in the quarterfinals. Osaka has averaged 3.79 shots per rally, peaking at 4.21 against Hsieh in the third round.
"I kind of want her to approach the match like she approached Pliskova," Bajin said. "She's also a big server. Just kind of like the opposite, because she's a lefty. Same mindset.
"Both of them are very dangerous off the first two, three shots, but I believe once the rally keeps going, Naomi with her current state of mind and physique has the upper hand."
Generally speaking, Osaka has been under far more pressure throughout the tournament, having to come back from a set and 2-4, 0-40 down to get the win. She fended off four key break points in the third set against Pliskova to win 6-4 in the third. That experience could prove vital on Saturday.
"I feel like I've played this tournament with willpower, basically, and determination," Osaka said. "I feel like I've never focused so hard in my life. So that's one of the biggest things I think I've improved."
How important is the first set?
It's a stat worth repeating: Osaka has won 59 consecutive matches when she wins the first, with her last loss coming all the way back in 2016. Osaka is also enjoying a 13-match win-streak at the Slams, the longest since Serena Williams's "Serena Slam" season in 2014-2015, when the American great won 33 straight Slam matches.
"I feel like when I win the first set, it's sort of smooth after, because I learn a lot in the first set anyways," Osaka said. "I can just take everything that I learned and try to finish quicker in the second set."
But Kvitova is no slouch in this department either. The Czech has enjoyed her most dominant run to a Slam final yet, averaging just 2.33 games lost per set over the fortnight. She has also won 22 consecutive matches when winning the first set at the Slams.
Neither woman has yet to lose a Slam final.
Who will handle the nerves of this high-stakes match better?
Kvitova hasn't played a major final in nearly five years and she's won her last eight finals, tallying an incredibly impressive 26-7 record in finals over her career. Osaka is playing in just the fifth final of her career, bringing a 2-2 record into Saturday's showdown.
Both women are trying to win their first Australian Open title, with Kvitova's title run tugging at the sentimental heartstrings that have very much been a part of her comeback from the violent attack in her home in December 2016. Osaka is trying to become the first woman to win the next Slam after her maiden major since Jennifer Capriati in 2001.
And then there's the prospect of the No.1 ranking. Kvitova, who reached a career-high No.2 in 2012, could become the oldest woman to debut at No.1 in the Open Era and the second woman representing the Czech Republic to hold the top spot.
"Those four Grand Slams last year was not really great," Kvitova said. "Even that, it was a great season. I won five titles and I was very proud of myself to do it. Of course I want to always do better at the Grand Slams, which I already did. Doesn't matter what happens tomorrow or this year. I already have a final of a Grand Slam. I'm already satisfied with that. I'm happy that I was able to prove that I'm still able to do that."
Osaka, who is already set to become the highest-ranked Japanese player ever, is looking to become the first Asian World No.1 and the youngest No.1 since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
"It would mean a lot," Osaka said. "This time last year I wouldn't have dreamed of being in this position. Honestly, the first thing I'm trying to do is be grateful to be here. I know that we're both fighting for the No.1 ranking too, everyone is talking about it.
"But for me my No.1 goal is to try my best. One of my biggest goals is to make my parents proud and I think I did that in New York but I think that would be better to have a second option too."