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.”
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.”
Giant slayer ⚔️
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2022
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.
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