Australian Open: Naomi Osaka upset by Amanda Anisimova

Amanda Anisimova Australian Open
Getty Images
0 Comments

American Amanda Anisimova ended Naomi Osaka‘s title defense at the Australian Open, pulling off a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) upset in the third round on Friday.

“I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about that,” said Osaka, whose ranking will fall from No. 14 to outside the top 50 in part because of her well-documented breaks last season. “I’m not God. I can’t win every match. … I can’t think of myself to try to win the Grand Slam at the start of the year every time.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Osaka, who won in Melbourne in 2019 and 2021, took two hiatuses from the sport last year, including a season-ending one after losing in the third round of the U.S. Open.

Back then, Osaka said that winning didn’t make her happy anymore and that she didn’t know when she would play her next tennis match. It didn’t happen until the first week of January at an Australian Open warm-up tournament, but she has been in good spirits Down Under.

“I 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. Of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.”

Anisimova, a 2019 French Open semifinalist at age 17, is back on the rise after a challenging two years that included the unexpected death of her father one week before the 2019 U.S. Open.

Osaka broke her in the opening game, but Anisimova faced just seven break points the rest of the match and saved all of them, including two match points.

“This is everything that I train for,” Anisimova said. “I mean, I was getting goose bumps in the tiebreaker.”

Last season, Anisimova tested positive for the coronavirus shortly before the 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.

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

“I really wanted to be having these moments again,” Anisimova said. “Sometimes you doubt it, like what if I get injured, and I’ll never be able to play in a Grand Slam again?”

Now she’s into the fourth round of a major for the first time since that 2019 French Open breakthrough. She gets top-ranked Ash Barty, who defeated Anisimova in that French Open semifinal.

Anisimova lost 17 of the first 18 points in that match. Down 5-0, she saved two set points and won six straight games. She then won 17 straight points between the tiebreak and was up a set and a break before Barty came back and won in three en route to her first major title.

“That was a turning point in my career,” Barty said Friday. “It’s exciting to get to play Amanda again.”

Barty, looking to be the first Aussie singles player to win the Australian Open since Chris O’Neil in 1978, rolled No. 30 Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 6-3 on Friday. She has dropped eight games total in three matches.

No. 6 seed Rafael Nadal moved four match wins from a record-breaking 21st men’s singles major title, dumping No. 28 Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in his first match against a top-40 player since last year’s French Open. He next gets 69th-ranked French veteran Adrian Mannarino.

Other high seeds had a much tougher time advancing into the round of 16 on Friday.

No. 4 Barbora Krejčíková, No. 8 Paula Badosa and No. 7 men’s seed Matteo Berrettini were also pushed to deciding sets. Berrettini, the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, needed 4 hours, 10 minutes to dispatch 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 6-2, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

Australian Open Day 6 Schedule

No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas benefited from an upset in their sections and face unseeded players in the third round — Medvedev gets Botic van de Zandschulp and Tsitsipas faces Benoit Paire.

Taylor Fritz, the highest-seeded U.S. man at No. 20, should produce a more competitive match with No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka needed three sets to win her first two matches with some horrible serving. She might not have that margin for error against her third-round opponent, No. 31 Marketa Vondrousova.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
Getty
0 Comments

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
Getty
0 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!