Melbourne, Jan 21 (IANS): American youngster Amanda Anisimova saved two match points to the way to a stunning three-set victory over Naomi Osaka, ending the Australian Open campaign of the defending champion from Japan in women's singles third round on Friday.
Anisimova, the 20-year-old, who had reached the fourth round in the Australian Open in 2019, upset No.13 seed Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in 2-hour, 15-minute at the Margaret Court Arena.
It was the 20-year-old American's seventh Top 20 win of her career, and the first since she beat Alison Riske in the second round of the 2020 US Open. After reaching a career-high ranking of 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 capture her second career title at Melbourne Summer Set 2 and extended her winning streak to eight matches to reach the second week 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, said a report on the WTA Tour website.
Osaka, who held two match points on Anisimova's serve at 5-4 in the third set, saw her 15-match unbeaten streak in Melbourne come to an end. For the second time, the former World No.1's Australian Open title defence has been halted by a young 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 down since saving one to defeat Tereza Martincova 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 in the first round of Mallorca 2019. Osaka's last loss from match point up was to Karolina Pliskova 6-7(10), 7-6(3), 6-2 in the 2020 Brisbane semi-finals, the report said.
In the Round of 16, Anisimova will meet top seed and local favourite Ashleigh Barty, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Italy's Camila Giorgi.
For the majority of the first-time encounter, Anisimova was the superior and more creative player off the ground. Both maintained roughly similar ratios of winners to unforced errors through the first two sets: Anisimova committed 13 unforced errors in each, balanced by 11 winners in the first and 15 in the second; Osaka committed 12 in each, but her winner tallies of eight and seven respectively lagged behind.
In the third set, Anisimova maintained her edge, finding 20 winners to 18 unforced errors, but Osaka was unable to find an extra gear, with her six winners outweighed by 21 unforced errors.
Moreover, Anisimova's serving and returning both improved set by set. In the first, she won 65% of her first-serve points and 45% behind her second. Set two saw those numbers go up to 68% and 64% respectively, and the decider saw them rise to 79% and 69%. Anisimova served eight double faults in total, but none after 2-2 in the third set; conversely, four of her 11 aces came after that point, including the one to seal her first match point.
By contrast, Osaka was near-impregnable behind her first serve in set one, winning 82% of those points -- a number that fell to 74% in set two and 73% in set three.
Meanwhile, Barty continued her first-week domination against the big-hitting Giorgi, going unbroken for her sixth consecutive match. Barty has not seen her vaunted serve broken since her first match of the season against Coco Gauff at the Adelaide International, which she went on to win for her third title on home soil. The World No.1 has reeled off 57 consecutive holds of serve.
Looking to become Australia's first women's champion in 44 years at Melbourne Park, Barty has lost just eight games in her three matches this year. She is through to the fourth round after extending her undefeated 2022 record to 7-0.
"I thought tonight was really clean. I thought I looked after my service games really well. I did well to get out of a real tricky one, being down 0-40. I was just able to keep my momentum going, make returns when it mattered most in important moments. Pretty good performance, I think," Barty was quoted as saying by the WTA Tour website.