Reigning Australian Open champion Osaka crashes out with defeat to Anisimova

Reigning champion Naomi Osaka crashed out in the third round of the Australian Open on Friday with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) defeat to American Amanda Anisimova, ranked 60th in the world.

Naomi Osaka, reigning Australian Open champion, was knocked out on Friday after a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) defeat to American Amanda Anisimova in the third round.   -  AP

Defending champion Naomi Osaka didn’t make it to a much-anticipated fourth-round contest against top-ranked Ash Barty at the Australian Open.

Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American ranked 60th in the world, ensured that the so-called final-before-the-final won't happen when she beat the four-time major champion 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) on Friday.

“I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance,” said Anisimova, who took out Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the second round and then accounted for the 2021 Australian Open champion.

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After losing the first set, Anisimova knew she needed to get more aggressive or she would be out of the tournament.

It worked.

Anisimova saved two match points in the third set, serving to stay in the match, and ended it with an ace. She hit 46 winners to Osaka’s 21.

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

After winning the 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.

'I'm not God! Can't win every match'

Following the Flushing Meadows defeat, a tearful Osaka told a news conference that she was taking a break from the sport, raising more concern about her mental health struggles that forced her to miss parts of the tennis season.

The soft spoken and self-confessed introvert declared at the start of the 2022 season that she was looking to have more fun on court and enjoy playing the sport.

"I would definitely say I'm proud of myself for this," the Japanese player told reporters on Friday. "Though to me it didn't feel like a short amount of time. It felt like ages ago.

"This for me is the biggest step. Even though I lost. I was really focused throughout the entire match, and I didn't have a dip. So that's really good. Hopefully as the season continues, I'll be able to keep this up, and get even better at it."

"I fought for every point. I can't be sad about that," Osaka said, adding that she was yet to decide on her schedule before the WTA 1000 event in Indian Wells in March.

"I'm not God! I can't win every match. The last match that I played in New York I think I had a completely different attitude.

"Of course I lost, but I'm happy with how it went. I just want to go into this year knowing that I'll play the whole year and I'll just have the greatest attitude ever."

- REUTERS

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