Youngster ‘can’t stop smiling’ after dumping out defending champ Osaka
Amanda Anisimova pulled off a major upset in Melbourne as the 20-year-old American defeated defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in a back-and-forth thriller - and she could hardly contain her excitement afterwards.
Osaka, the two-time winner of the Melbourne Grand Slam, was expected to make light work of an opponent ranked almost 50 places beneath her, particularly after the Japanese star had impressed in her two matches so far in the tournament after returning from two separate breaks from the sport last year in a bid, she said, to protect her mental health.
But in Anisimova, she came up against an opponent who is recapturing some of the best form of her young career.
Osaka took the first set relatively comfortably by a score of 6-4 but Anisimova rallied in the second to even the scores, winning it 6-3.
Osaka appeared to have victory within reach in the deciding third set, even having two match points with the score at 4-5, but Anisimova again mounted a comeback and claimed a famous win in the first-to-ten-points tiebreak.
The final score was 4-6 6-3 7-6.
The unseeded Anisimova faces another daunting test in the last 16, hometown top-seed Ash Barty.
"I'm speechless," Anisimova said after a win which will send shockwaves through the tournament. "I absolutely love playing for you guys in Melbourne. Honestly, it's so much fun.
"I can't stop smiling even when I'm playing event though I should be serious but, you know, I'm just laughing at what you guys say sometimes. I absolutely love this.
"Going into this match I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance. Naomi is always going to be playing well. She's an absolute champion, so I knew that I really had to step up my game and try to be aggressive. That's what I started doing in the second set. Honestly, I'm so grateful that I was able to play so well today and get this win. It means a lot."
The loss will prove to be a jarring one for Osaka who is predicted to plummet down the rankings as a result of her early exit but could well prove to be the making of Anisimova - a player who was hailed for her results in the junior ranks, as well as her run to the French Open semi-finals at just 17, before her career had become stifled somewhat following the death of her father and coach Konstantin in 2019.
Anisimova remains unbeaten in 2022 and has already won a warm-up event in Melbourne and if Osaka wasn't quite anticipating the heavyweight tussle she wound up getting on Friday, you can bet that Ashleigh Barty won't make a similar mistake.