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Naomi Osaka falls to former U.S. teen phenom Amanda Anisimova at Australian Open

Tennis player Amanda Anisimova raising her racquet
Amanda Anisimova reacts after defeating defending champion Naomi Osaka in their third-round match at the Australian Open on Friday.
(Tertius Pickard / Associated Press)

Within an hour of her third-round loss at the Australian Open, defending champion Naomi Osaka had consigned it to the past.

It’s part of her new resolution for 2022. No dwelling on what’s already happened.

Osaka had two match points against 60th-ranked Amanda Anisimova in the third set Friday, and she missed two backhands.

Anisimova held serve to force a tiebreaker, which she dominated, and finished with an ace for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) comeback victory over the four-time major champion. In doing so, the 20-year-old American ensured that what was being billed as the “final before the final” — a much-anticipated fourth-round showdown between Osaka and top-ranked Ash Barty — wouldn’t happen.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to have regrets about those two match points,” Osaka said. “Like, I thought she played really well. But I can’t really look in the past anymore, you know? ... I just have to focus on what I can do in the future to hopefully [avoid] those situations.”

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Anisimova, who had lost her previous nine matches against Top 20 players and had to rebound from a set and a break down to survive her first-round match, hit 46 winners to Osaka’s 21.

Osaka, one of the most powerful hitters in the women’s draw, praised Anisimova’s service returns and described how the ball kept coming back at her so low and fast that she couldn’t adjust her footwork to counter it.

“I just want to soak in this moment,” said Anisimova, who took out Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the second round. “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.”

Anisimova won her first WTA hardcourt title at a tuneup tournament in Melbourne this month and is now on an eight-match winning streak — the longest of her career in main draw matches.

In the latest surprise at a French Open filled with them, defending champion Simona Halep was knocked out in the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova on Thursday.

It’s the fourth time Osaka has been unable to defend a major title, and the 11th time in a Grand Slam tournament that she has been knocked out in the third round, including last year’s U.S. Open.

After winning the Australian title last year — her second at Melbourne Park in three years — Osaka withdrew from the French Open in the second round and skipped Wimbledon as she took a break for her mental health. After an early loss at the U.S. Open, she took an extended layoff to reset and arrived at the year’s first major with a seeding of No. 13.

Barty advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over 30th-seeded Camila Giorgi on Rod Laver Arena, the match starting later but finishing earlier than the Osaka-Anisimova contest on the adjoining Margaret Court Arena.

Barty has conceded only eight games and spent less than three hours on court in her first three rounds at Melbourne Park. The Wimbledon champion and 2019 French Open winner is aiming to be the first Australian woman to win her home championship since 1978.

The Australian Open was great before Novak Djokovic, and the Grand Slam doesn’t need the unvaccinated star to prove its place in the tennis world.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka’s overpowered 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016. She will next play French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who rallied from a set and a break down against 26th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Since a quarterfinal run in Australia in 2016, Azarenka lost first-round matches last year and in 2019, and missed the tournament altogether in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The 32-year-old former No. 1 from Belarus is feeling comfortable right now, fulfilling the dual roles of player and mother in Melbourne.

“I always feel privileged that I’m able to have him here,” Azarenka said of her young son. “These kind of moments are really priceless for me. To be able for me to share that with my son is pretty incredible.”

On the men’s side, Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev notched a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Radu Albot, a 124th-ranked qualifier from Moldova, to set up a fourth-round match against Denis Shapovalov.

The 14th-seeded Shapovalov beat No. 23 Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini fended off 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz 6-2, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

Miomir Kecmanovic continued to make the most of the absence of fellow Serb Novak Djokovic, reaching the fourth round at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 7-5 win over 25th-seeded Lorenzo Sonego. He will next play 17th-seeded Gael Monfils, who beat No. 16 Cristian Garin 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-3.

Kecmanovic had been drawn to play the top-ranked Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, in the first round. But Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament for failing to meet Australia’s strict COVID-19 regulations.


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