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It’s a blockbuster, but not the one we expected: Brilliant Anisimova stuns Osaka at Australian Open; Barty next

Defending champion Osaka could not take advantage of two match points as Anisimova set up a fourth-round showdown with Ash Barty, a repeat of the 2019 French Open semi-final

Amanda Anisimova wins R3 AO 2022 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Australian Open 2022 | Draw Order of play | Third round

There will be a blockbuster fourth-round clash at the Australian Open, but it won’t be the one most people expected after world no 60 Amanda Anisimova beat defending champion Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) in a thrilling encounter at Melbourne Park on Friday.

The 20-year-old American, a semi-finalist at the French Open in 2019 and making her way back toward the top of the game after a couple of years in the wilderness, saved two match points at 4-5 in the third set and then played a brilliant tiebreak to produce one of the biggest wins of her career and set up a clash with world No 1 Ash Barty, who cruised past Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3.

“I’m just so grateful that I was able to play this well today and to get the win,” an ecstatic Anisimova said. “It means a lot.

“I just want to soak in this moment. I’m just extremely happy. It was an amazing match. It was very close. You know, there were a bit of nerves, and to play Naomi for the first time, it’s unreal, honestly. So I’m just really happy with the win today. Yeah, it sucks we couldn’t both win today, because these matches are hard. Honestly, I think she’s a very nice girl. These days are kind of tough. Yeah, I’m just really happy in the end.”

Osaka misses two match points in third set

Osaka, who won the title in 2019 and 2021 in Melbourne, had impressed in her opening two matches and cut a much more relaxed figure off the court, too, emphasising that she intends to be more relaxed about her tennis in 2022.

The Japanese started well, breaking world No 60 Anisimova first up and holding the advantage through to the end of the first set.

Anisimova, who has been working with Darren Cahill since the start of the year, was playing well, too, though, having won the Melbourne Summer Set title for the third trophy of her career and beaten Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the second round. And the pair set about producing some blistering rallies, with brutal hitting on both wings. Attacking the Osaka second serve more and more, Anisimova got the break for 3-1 in the second set and levelled.

The third set was high quality from both women but it looked as if Osaka would grab the win when she led 5-4 on serve and had two match points, first at 30-40 and then at 40-A. But each time, Anisimova dug deep, holding serve and when it came to the deciding first-to-10-points tiebreak, the 20-year-old cut loose, finishing it off with her 11th ace.

Osaka set to slide to No 84 in world rankings, remains proud

Despite what was a good performance, Osaka’s early loss means she will take a big tumble in the rankings, crashing down to No 84, her lowest ranking since August 2016.

The Japanese left the court with her head down, but found time to wave to the crowd to thank them for their support.

“I’m not God. I can’t win every match,” she said. “I can’t, like, think of myself to try to win the Grand Slam at the start of the year every time. For me, I feel like I grew a lot in this match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude, so I’m really happy with…of course I lost, but I’m happy with how it went.”

Naomi Osaka leaves court R3 AO 2022
AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Barty maintains perfect run on serve

When it comes to pressure, few players deal better with it than Ash Barty and the world No 1 is looking awfully good as she heads into week two.

With the hopes of a nation on her – there has not been a home champion in Melbourne since Chris O’Neil won the title in 1978 – Barty continued her smoother than smooth progress as she dismissed Camila Giorgi with the minimum of fuss, her 6-2, 6-3 win putting her into the last 16.

Barty has dropped just six games on her way to week two, a run helped by her near-perfect serving. The Aussie won 25 of her 27 points on first serve and she has not dropped her serve in Melbourne this year and in fact, she has now won 57 straight service games.

Giorgi, whose free-wheeling style has caused many top players problems in the past, had no answer to Barty’s consistency and though she had a few break points, she could not take any of them and the world No 1 romped into the last 16.

Barty-Anisimova a repeat of 2019 French Open semi-final

The clash between Anisimova and Barty will be a repeat of their classic encounter in the semi-finals at Roland-Garros in 2019. The American led by a set and a break but Barty turned it around and went on to win her first Grand Slam title, beating Marketa Vondrousova in the final.

“It shows how often the draw pans out like you guys think, hey?,” Barty told reporters. “I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play Naomi. I love to test myself against the very best.

“In the position we’re in, Amanda has played a fantastic tournament. She deserves her spot in the round of 16. I think the match we will play will be exciting. It will be good for both of us to get out there and test ourselves against each other. (The 2019 match) was a turning point in my career.”

Seeds who won on Friday (3rd round): Barty (1), Krejcikova (4), Sakkari (5), Badosa (8), Pegula (21) Azarenka (24)

Seeds who lost on Friday (3rd round): Osaka (13), Svitolina (15), Ostapenko (26), Kudermetova (28)

Seeds already out: Muguruza (3), Kontaveit (6), Kenin (11), Rybakina (12), Kerber (16), Raducanu (17), Gauff (18), Kvitova (20), Bencic (22), Fernandez (23), Giorgi (30), Sorribes Tormo (32)

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