Australian Open: Amanda Anisimova ousts Olympic gold medalist; Naomi Osaka next

Australian Open Amanda Anisimova
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Amanda Anisimova is into the Australian Open third round, continuing a promising start to the year for a player who was once the next big thing in American tennis, and still could be.

Anisimova, 20, ousted No. 22 seed and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-2, 7-5, her seventh consecutive match win to start 2022. She next plays defending champion Naomi Osaka for the first time.

“I’ve been wanting to play her for a while,” Anisimova said. “Our personalities are a little bit similar in terms of composure and trying to be the quiet players on tour.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Anisimova had not been heard from much since her run to the 2019 French Open semifinals at age 17, becoming the youngest major semifinalist in 12 years.

Her father and former longtime coach died unexpectedly one week before the 2019 U.S. Open.

She returned for the 2020 Australian Open and lost in the first round. Though she made the third round of the French Open and U.S. Open during the pandemic, she tested positive for the coronavirus shortly before last year’s Australian Open and missed the tournament while isolating in Abu Dhabi.

She then rolled an ankle later that winter and ended up playing just one match in a four-month stretch. She went nearly eight months between winning multiple matches in a tournament and finished 2021 ranked 78th, down 48 spots from 2020.

“I’ve had a lot of good matches against top players last year, so I feel like everyone knows that I can play very good tennis, but it was just not as consistent as I hoped for,” she said.

Anisimova started working with respected Australian coach Darren Cahill going into this season. It’s looking shrewd. She won an Australian Open lead-in tournament in Melbourne, her second WTA title and first since April 2019.

Now she gets Osaka, a 6-0, 6-4 winner over American Madison Brengle on Wednesday.

“It’s very interesting to play against the younger players because I remember being a younger player myself,” the 24-year-old Osaka said, “and feeling like I have nothing to lose.”

Elsewhere, top seed Ash Barty followed her 6-0, 6-1 win in the first round with a 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of 142nd-ranked Italian Lucia Bronzetti. The Australian gets No. 30 Camila Giorgi of Italy in the third round.

Rafael Nadal, the No. 6 seed and lone past men’s champion in the field, swept 126th-ranked German Yannick Hanfmann 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Nadal gets No. 28 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia next.

No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland became the first top-10 seed to lose in either draw, eliminated by veteran Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Australian Open Day 4 Schedule

Thursday’s highlight matches to close out the second round include No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia facing Australian crowd favorite Nick Kyrgios. Medvedev, the 2021 U.S. Open champion, became the clear tournament favorite after top-ranked Novak Djokovic was deported.

Elsewhere, the highest-ranked American man, No. 20 seed Taylor Fritz, faces countryman Frances Tiafoe for a spot in round three.

The women’s match du jour is a sentimental one: Aussie Sam Stosur, the 2011 U.S. Open winner, is playing her final singles tournament. The 37-year-old is an underdog against No. 10 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia but will have tremendous support.

Nos. 2 and 3 seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Garbiñe Muguruza are also in action.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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