Australian Open: Naomi Osaka out to Amanda Anisimova, Ashleigh Barty wins in Melbourne
Defending champion Naomi Osaka is out of the Australian Open after American rival Amanda Anisimova survived two match points before securing a memorable victory in the third round.
The 24-year-old Japanese Osaka was defeated 4-6, 6-3 and 7-6 (10-5) at Melbourne Park.
20-year-old non-series leader Anisimova will play with Australian series leader Ashleigh Barty in the round of 16.
Barty has yet to lose a set seven this week after a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi.
The 25-year-old Queenslander is hoping for a desperate nation to see an Australian Open champion at home for the first time since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
Most expected Barty to face Osaka in the round of 16, when the draw pitted two of the game’s biggest stars in the same section.
Osaka finished 13th after a four-month hiatus at the end of last season, during which he revealed he had suffered from depression.
The two-time champion, who also won the 2019 title at Melbourne Park, had also spent her first two matches, but faced a different proposition at Anisimova.
The American announced her arrival as a potential star when she reached the semi-finals of the 2019 French Open at the age of 17.
But the death of his father and coach Konstantin shortly before the U.S. Open later that year had a debilitating effect on his career.
Against Osaka, the world number 60 showed on the biggest stage that he has rediscovered his best form and been able to use his power effectively.
Anisimova also showed his ability to keep calm under pressure, saving the two-point match with a 5-4 in the decisive set when his depth from the bottom line forced two Osaka setback errors.
“When I entered this game, I knew I had to be playing hard if I wanted to give myself a chance,” said Anisimova, who lifted the Melbourne Summer Set Two title earlier this month and has now won all eight. 2022 matches.
“She is an absolute champion, so I knew I would have to step up my game and be aggressive.
“Honestly, I’m very grateful to have been able to play so well today and get this victory. It means a lot.”
Barty advances with a “clean” performance.
Now Anisimova will look for trouble when she faces Barty.
The Australian has topped the world rankings for 112 weeks, winning five WTA titles last season and starting in 2022 with another in Adelaide.
But he has fallen short in each of the last three years at Melbourne Park, having reached the 2020 semi-finals between quarter-final defeats in 2019 and 2021.
Surely there will be more difficult moments ahead of the rest of this tournament, potentially against Anisimova on Sunday.
But so far, she has been quiet in three convincing victories in which she has only lost eight games.
“I thought tonight was very clean, I took very good care of my service games, I was able to keep up my momentum. A pretty good performance,” Barty said after beating 30th seed Giorgi.
“I felt like she was out of my weight class, the way she hits the ball is amazing. I was able to use my slice effectively, especially the short one.”