Anisimova Topples Defending Champion Osaka In Melbourne

Amanda Anisimova (photo: Australian Open video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 21, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Amanda Anisimova knocked out defending Australian Open women’s champion and four-time major title winner Naomi Osaka, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) in the third round of the year’s first Grand Slam event Friday night. Anisimova played exceptionally well and proved to be the better player.

The 20-year-old New Jersey-born American saved two match points in the final set on Margaret Court Arena and finished off the 13th-seeded Japanese superstar with her 11th ace to wrap up the two-hour and 15-minute third-round match on Margaret Court Arena.

In the final-set match tie-break – first to 10 wins – Anismiova took an early 3-0 lead and build it to 9-5 with a forehand down-the-line winner, then aced Osaka on match point.

Anisimova, unseeded and ranked 60th, finished her remarkable victory with 11 aces and hit 46 winners to 44 unforced errors. She outpointed Osaka 116-109. Meanwhile, Osaka managed just five aces and her 21 winners were overshadowed by 45 unforced errors.

The victory was Anisimova’s seventh Top 20 win of her career and the first since she beat Alison Riske of the United States in the second round of the 2020 US Open. Anisimova was once ranked as high as No. 21 by October 2019 as a teenager, but fell to No. 86 by last August following two challenging seasons, in which her 52-year-old father suddenly died just before the 2019 US Open. She also dealt with a variety of injuries, too.

“Last year was a huge struggle for me,” Anisimova said in press after her victory. “Honestly, I didn’t think that I would – I mean, it’s not that I didn’t think, but I really wanted to be having these moments again. Sometimes, you doubt it, like what if get injured and I’ll never be able to play in a Grand Slam again? Like, those thoughts try to creep up in my head sometimes. Yeah, last year was just not great, all my results I wasn’t happy with. I’m just really happy that I had a great preseason with my team.”

Anisimova began working with Darren Cahill, former longtime coach for Simona Halep, on a trial basis after arriving in Australia. Then, she won the Melbourne Summer Set 2 tournament at the start of this season. Now, she’s into the fourth round at Melbourne, where she will face top seed and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty on Sunday.

Osaka took the defeat in stride and remained upbeat and positive. “For me, I feel like grew a lot in this match,” she said. “The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude. So, you know, of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.

“I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about that. You know, I’m not God. I can’t win every match.”

Top seed Barty continues first-week domination

Top seed Ashleigh Barty, looking to become Australia’s first women’s champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978, continued to play head and shoulders above the competition as she rolled to her seventh straight victory of the young season. She’s lost just eight games in her three first-week matches at Melbourne Park. Friday evening on Rod Laver Arena, Barty tamed big-hitting 30th seed Camila Giorgi of Italy, 6-2, 6-3, in 61 minutes.

Barty went unbroken on her serve for her sixth consecutive match, extending her consecutive holds of serve to 57 games. She’s not been broken since her first match of the 2022 season against Coco Gauff at the Adelaide International 1, which she went on to earn her third title in her home country.

“I thought tonight was really clean. I thought I looked after my service games really well,” Barty said. “I did well to get out of a real tricky one, being down 0-40. I was just able to keep my momentum going, make returns when it mattered most in important moments. Pretty good performance, I think.”

Barty, who is 9-1 in her last 10 matches on hard courts – will take a 1-0 head-to-head into the fourth round against unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Sunday. Their first meeting was a memorable one, in the 2019 semifinals at Roland-Garros, which Barty won 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 en route to her first Grand Slam title.

Krejcikova, Sakkari, Badosa move into fourth round

Elsewhere, reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, seeded fourth in Melbourne, rallied from a set and a break down against 26th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, the 2017 Roland-Garros winner, to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and advance to the fourth round of singles in Melbourne for the first time.

Krejcikova will play 24th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who began the day on Rod Laver Arena with a brilliant 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 15 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Azarenka, who won the Australian Open title in 2012 and 2013 and has been a US Open finalist three times, is into the fourth round for the first time since 2016. The win against Svitolina was her fifth straight over the Ukrainian No. 1.

Fifth seed Maria Sakkari of Greece beat No. 28 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the fourth round against No. 21 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States who bested No. 63 Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Eight seed Paula Badosa of Spain, advanced to face American Madison Keys in the fourth round. The World No. 6 Badosa eliminated close friend and 66th-ranked Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, while No. 51 Keys needed three sets to beat No. 110 Wang Qiang of China, 4-6, 7-3, 7-6 (2), to remain unbeaten in 2022.

Berrettini guts out five-set thriller over Alcaraz

In what arguably was the most interesting match of the day in the men’s draw, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini withstood the charge by 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz to win their third-round clash, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (5) in four hours and 10 minutes to close out the Friday afternoon session on Rod Laver Arena.

The World No. 7 from Rome gave away a two sets-to-none lead against Alcaraz and overcame a heavy fall in which he rolled his right ankle in advancing to the fourth round.

“I felt confident, and that momentum was on my side in the third set but then I got broken. My energy wasn’t right int he fourth set and in the fifth I just started to think about fighting for every point. In every match something happens but I fought through it,” the 25-year-old Berrettini said.

The fifth set per Australian Open rules called for a first-to-ten match tie-break, which Berrettini admitted was a bit strange and awkward. “I’ve played a fifth-set tiebreaker but I never played up to 10, and I think it’s pretty weird … something that we are not used to it,” he said.

Berrettini struck 10 aces, won 78 percent (90 of 115) of his first-serve points, hit 39 winners and withstood making 48 unforced errors. Alcaraz countered with 12 aces and 51 winners to 52 unforced errors. Points were even at 159.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz accepted his loss with dignity and praise: “I’m very proud of the performance today. It was my first time two sets down and then to be able to come back the way I did. … I gave everything on the court,” he said during his post-match press conference.

Next, Berrettini will face No. 19 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who needed four sets to beat No. 40 Sebastian Korda of the United States, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-3, for his 50thcareer Grand Slam victory. The Spaniard is into the Australian Open fourth round for the third time.

Afterward, Berrettini said his ankle should be good to go on Sunday. “I’m good,” he said. “Luckily it wasn’t a big one. I’m used to this.”

There will be a Serbian in second week after all

No. 77 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, a former junior No. 1 who promised he would dedicate his wins in Melbourne to deported Novak Djokovic, moved into the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. On Friday afternoon, Kecmanovic beat No. 25 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 7-5, on 1573 Arena. Next, he will face No. 17 seed Gaël Monfils of France, who defeated No. 16 seed Cristian Garin of Chile, 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.

Elsewhere, No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada gutted out a four-set 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 23 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States on Margaret Court Arena. It came two days after the 22-year-old Shapovalov went the distance to beat Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea. Shapovalov withstood 18 aces and 46 winners from Opelka and contributed 10 aces and three winners of his own. He benefited from 46 unforced errors by the American.

“I knew he was going to hit one or two aces but I tried to get my racquet on as many as possible,” Shapovalov said. “Early on, I found a rhythm on his serve. I was able to chip quite a lot back, which I was happy about. I think I did a good job taking the chances. It is thought to get the rhythm against a guy like that. So, I am super happy.”

Next, Shapovalov will No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, who eliminated 123rd-ranked qualifier Radu Albot of Moldova, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, in an hour and 57 minutes on John Cain Court.

“It’s amazing, this is probably my favorite court [in Melbourne], because I’ve never lost a match here and I hope it continues this way,” said Zverev, who hit 16 aces and 44 winners during his third-round victory. “The support has been incredible, it’s really fun to play in front of all you guys again, and hopefully, it will be another good four matches for me.”

Nadal keeps fighting to the finish

No. 6 seed Rafael Nadal, who is aiming to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, needed nearly three hours to beat No. 28 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia. When the last point was played, it was the World No. 5 from Spain who prevailed with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory to move into the second week for the 15th time. The victory kept Nadal’s hopes of winning a second Australian Open title – and first since 2009 – alive. He’s the only former Australian Open champion in the men’s field.

Nadal hit 39 winners and committed 30 unforced errors and broke Khachanov’s serve five times during the two-hour and 51-minute match that wrapped up the night session on Rod Laver Arena. He was aided by 42 unforced errors by Khachanov and outpointed the Russian 118-89 to improve to 8-0 in his career head-to-head with the Russian.

“I have gone through some very tough times over the past year,” Nadal said. “But nights like tonight mean everything. I keep fighting and going every day. I put a lot of effort in to be back with where I am today, so I am happy.”

Nadal improved to 7-0 this season after being off the ATP Tour since last August with a chronic left foot injury. Two weeks ago, Nadal won his first title of the year and 89th of his career at the Melbourne Summer Set.

In the fourth round on Sunday, Nadal will oppose unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France. The 69th-ranked Frenchman needed four hours and 38 minutes to defeat No. 18 seed and 2021 semifinalist Aslan Karatsev of Russia, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, in a match that ended at 2:33 a.m. local time on Margaret Court Arena.

Mannarino, who made just 22 unforced errors compared to 86 for Karatsev, trails Nadal 0-2 in their career head to head.

Special Ks upset No. 1 seeds in doubles

With both Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis eliminated from the singles draw, the two Australian shotmakers are teaming in the men’s doubles to great fanfare. On Friday, they let loose and upset top-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, 7-6 (8), 6-3.

The defeat left the World No. 1 Pavic and World No. 2 Mektic still in search of their second Grand Slam title following their victory at Wimbledon last year.

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis combined to hit 17 aces and won 88 percent of the points behind their first serves. This is the fourth time they’ve teamed together but the first time they’ve reached the third round.

Friday’s Australian Open results

Saturday’s Australian Open order of play

By the numbers

• Friday’s Day Five attendance at Melbourne Park reached 34,177.

Rafael Nadal, who won the 2009 Australian Open title and is four wins from a second Melbourne crown, is attempting to become just the second man after Novak Djokovic to win all four major titles at least twice.

• With defending champion Naomi Osaka eliminated and Serena Williams, a seven-time Australian Open titlist not competing in Melbourne this year, their estimated WTA rankings after this year’s Australian Open will both take a tumble.

“Quotable …”

“I think she’s really inspiring. What she’s done the last couple of years is amazing, and just how authentic she is. I think she’s just great, rally fresh for the tour.”

Amanda Anisimova of the United States, on what Naomi Osaka means to her as a player and competitor on the WTA tour. On Friday, Anisimova upset Osaka, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), for the biggest win of her career.