Anisimova saves match points to knock out defending champion Osaka at Australian Open
Amanda Anisimova saved two match points to upset No. 13 seed Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the third round of the Australian Open, while No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Italy’s Camila Giorgi to set up a round of 16 clash between two of the first titlists of this year.
Anisimova’s victory in 2 hours and 15 minutes was the 20-year-old American’s seventh Top 20 win of her career and first since beating Alison Riske in the second round of the 2020 US Open. After reaching a career high at No. 21 in October 2019, Anisimova fell to No. 86 last August after two difficult seasons.
However, a fortnight ago she played with rejuvenated freedom and form to claim her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2, and extended her winning streak to eight games to reach week two of a Grand Slam for the third time. The first was exactly three years ago at the 2019 Australian Open, where she upset Aryna Sabalenka in the third round.
Osaka, who held two match points on Anisimova’s serve at 5-4 in the third set, sees her own 15-game unbeaten streak in Melbourne come to an end. For the second time, the former world No. 1’s Australian Open title defense was halted by an American in the third round following her 2020 loss at the same stage to Coco Gauff.
The result is the first time Anisimova has won from match point since saving one to defeat Tereza Martincova 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 in the 2019 Mallorca first round Osaka’s last loss from match point came to Karolina Pliskova 6-7(10), 7-6(3), 6-2 in the Brisbane 2020 semi-final.
By the numbers: For the majority of the first encounter, Anisimova was the superior and most creative player on the court. Both maintained roughly similar ratios of winners on unforced errors in the first two sets. Anisimova committed 13 unforced errors in each, balanced by 11 winners in the first and 15 in the second; Osaka entered 12 in each, but their winner totals eight and seven behind, respectively.
In the third set, Anisimova maintained her advantage, finding 20 winners for 18 unforced errors, but Osaka was unable to find any additional equipment, with her six winners offset by 21 unforced errors.
Anisimova’s serve and return improved set by set. In the first, she won 65% of her first-serve points and 45% behind her second. The second set saw those numbers go up to 68% and 64%, respectively, and the decider saw them go up to 79% and 69%. Anisimova served eight double faults in total, but none after 2-2 in the third set. Conversely, four of his 11 aces came after that point, including to seal his first match point.
Osaka was almost impregnable after her first serve in the first set, winning 82% of those points – a number that fell to 74% in the second set and 73% in the third set.
Match management: Despite the numbers in Anisimova’s favour, the tension as the match reached its super tiebreak denouement was due to the wait to see if the pattern would hold. Anisimova started nervously, committing two double faults in the opener, and Osaka had built that break into the first set.
Although Anisimova began to read Osaka’s serve better in the second set, during which she fired five returning winners, the defending champion proved adept at finding her biggest deliveries to stave off danger. It took a moment of magic with a rare cushioning for Anisimova to capture the crucial second-set break for 3-1, and for most of the third set Osaka continued to close the window on the No. 60’s chances. world.
Would Anisimova allow these missed opportunities to let her level drop? Would Osaka find the extra gear she’s shown so often in the past, like last year’s fourth-round comeback after match points against Garbiñe Muguruza? Or would Osaka somehow use her serve to escape Anisimova’s base supremacy?
It was Anisimova who rose to the occasion. Of the two match points she faced, Osaka’s backhand first gave way under the weight of her well-timed groundstrokes. And in the ensuing super tie-break, the first time either player had played a decisive first-to-10 game at professional level, Anisimova was nearly clear. She went for a bold shot and executed it perfectly. A pair of excellent backhands and a string of unrecoverable serves created a solid lead, a volley winner down the line brought his first match point and an 11th ace sealed victory.
Anisimova on Osaka: “I think she’s really inspiring,” Anisimova said afterwards, referring to the four-time Grand Slam champion, who has shed light on athletes’ mental health issues over the past year.
“What she’s done the last two years is amazing and how genuine she is. I think she’s just great, really fresh for the tour. I think she’s really funny and sweet. was really cool to finally play it today.
“She’s just telling the truth about how she feels. She’s been talking about her mental health for the past two years. I know she had a really tough year last year, so I feel a little for her today. today. I know it’s not easy, especially as the defending champion, I feel a little bad. But just the way she talks about things and how honest she is, I think that’s really inspiring.
“To raise awareness and try to get rid of the stigma around mental health – I think we’re in a completely different time now. This generation is becoming more honest about all these sorts of things. I think that’s great to have.
“I’m comfortable talking about anything, you know. I’ve been through a tough few years, and I don’t mind posting stuff on social media and just trying to educate people who are also going through difficult things. I think it’s great to be connected to other people who follow us. I think it’s a great message.
“Last year was a huge struggle for me. Honestly, I didn’t think I would – I mean, it’s not that I didn’t think about it, but I really wanted to relive those moments. Sometimes you doubt it, like What if I get hurt and I can never play in a Grand Slam again? Like, those thoughts try to slip through my head sometimes Yeah, last year just wasn’t great, not all my results have satisfied me. I’m just very happy to have had a great pre-season with my team.”
Osaka on Anisimova’s game challenges: “I thought his comeback was definitely really amazing,” she said afterwards. “I almost felt like I was fighting for my life in some games. Honestly, I also thought I won some games just out of sheer willpower.
“It’s quite interesting when you play against someone, you also want to learn from them. Because I also feel like I want to come back like she comes back. So I will definitely go to the pitch training and trying to practice my returns – maybe not tomorrow but when. It was an exciting game for me. I hope everyone who watched it was thrilled.
“I thought in exchanges she dictated a bit more, which was kind of a new feeling for me. Admittedly, I had never played her before, so I didn’t know the rhythm of her ball, but it was definitely kind of shocking to be on my back foot in most rallies, and I felt like it was kind of like table tennis, where it was just really fast and then suddenly she was hitting a shorter ball and I was so far behind, I couldn’t really come in, like I was comfortable enough to do it.
“For me, I feel like I grew a lot in that game. The last game I played in New York, I think I had a completely different attitude, so – you know, of course that I lost, but I’m happy with the way it came.
“I fought for every point. I can’t be sad about it. You know, I’m not God. I can’t win every game.”
Barty reaches second week in Melbourne for fourth consecutive year
Barty continued his week one dominance against heavy hitter Giorgi, uninterrupted for his sixth straight game. Barty’s serve hasn’t been interrupted since her first match of the season, against Coco Gauff at the Adelaide International, which she won for her third home title. The world No. 1 has made 58 consecutive service shots.
Seeking to become Australia’s first women’s champion in 44 years at Melbourne Park, Barty has lost just eight games in three appearances this year. She is through to the fourth round after taking her unbeaten record from 2022 to 7-0.
Barty’s review: “I thought tonight was really clean. I thought I looked after my service games really well. I did well to come out of a really tricky game, being down 0-40. I was just able to maintain my momentum, making comebacks when it mattered most in the important moments. Pretty good performance, I think.”
Unbreakable Barty: After earning an early break at 2-0, Barty took a 4-1 lead in the opener. Giorgi’s best chance came with Barty serving at 4-2. With aggressive ball striking, Giorgi earned his first break points of the match at 0-40, only to see Barty come out of trouble. Barty managed to save the only four break points she faced in that match and used the momentum to earn a clean win.
Barty on fending off Giorgi’s firepower: “I felt like I was out of my weight class for sure. The way she hits the ball and can control the center of the pitch is amazing. It was my job tonight to get her out from the baseline, whether it was short or it was deep or out of his strike zone. I tried to do it as often as possible. difficult when you’re against the wind and feel like to be a bit uphill. But overall I thought it was pretty good. I was able to use my slice effectively, especially the short one.”
Roland Garros rematch: Barty and Anisimova have only faced each other once before – a wildly fluctuating semi-final at Roland Garros 2019, which Barty won 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 en route to her maiden World Cup crown. Grand Slam.
It had been the first major semi-final for both players. Barty lost the first set 5-0 but came back from 3-0 down to take the second and an early break to seal the third.