When Amanda Anisimova was 16, she was touted as the next Maria Sharapova, partly because of her marketability but also because of her quick groundstrokes. More recently, Serena Williams’ trainer Patrick Mouratoglou compared her to Lindsay Davenport for her flawless timing.
Sunday night was in a way a display of both, and against other opponents that might have been enough. Two days ago, against Naomi Osaka, it was. This time, however, although Anisimova became the first player at this year’s Australian Open to break Ash Barty’s serve, she simply won the battle and not the war.
The scorecard read 6-4, 6-3 for Barty, a fitting summary of a match in which the unseeded American showed her growing influence at the Grand Slam, but was well beaten by a World No.1 who , according to its form in the first four. rounds, he appears to be on the right track to claim his country’s first major title on home ground in 44 years.
Last week, Rod Laver called Barty “invincible” in his prime. Anisimova did her best to prove him wrong. So far no one had ever pushed her past the one hour mark in a match; the 20-year-old lasted an hour and 14 minutes. It ended the Australian’s tournament-serving streak of 63 consecutive holds to lead 2-0 in the second set, and in all provided the first real test of her top-seeded credentials.
But Barty broke his back and then went on to win five of the remaining six games to close out the match. And where Anisimova’s offensive mindset got in the way, her inability to neutralize Barty’s range kept her on the defensive for much of the contest.
“She’s an incredible athlete, an incredible competitor,” Barty said of his defeated opponent. “One of his best attributes is that he shows up point after point after point. It’s nice to see her back playing her best tennis. She is a champion. She will be in many deep stages of many careers in her future, that’s for sure.
“I enjoy sharing the court, testing my game against her, she has an incredible game. It was nice to be able to stand my ground and return the points to my patrons more regularly, and the big ones when it mattered the most.”
It was heartfelt words from a player at the top of the game about one who is quickly making a comeback in that direction after two highly interrupted years. Anisimova was 17 years old and already a US Open junior champion when she rocked Barty in the 2019 Roland Garros semifinal, leading by a set and three games before the Australian turned the tables en route to the title.
The abrupt death of his father and coach, Konstantin, soon after put his tennis on hold, and his career-high ranking of 21 has since dropped to 60. The recent revival has coincided with Darren Cahill training as a test, which came to fruition this year when Anisimova won her second WTA title at the Melbourne Summer Set warm-up event.
Still, Barty has improved a lot since that French Open final. He changed his shots at will and got an incredible return with a serve that exceeded 182 km/h. At 3-3 in the first set, Anisimova slid between the tram lines as if doing a whistle test and earned three break points for her troubles.
The 25-year-old will play her fourth consecutive Australian Open quarterfinal on Tuesday against another American, No.21 seed Jessica Pegula, who beat fifth-seeded Greek Maria Sakkari in straight sets on Sunday, with an eye on to become the first local to win. the tournament since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
“She’s able to hold the baseline really well,” Barty said of Pegula. “His swings are pretty linear and he puts a racket behind the ball and swings down the road. The ball comes at you on a different trajectory, and his ability to soak up rhythm and then add it when he wants to is exceptional.
“It’s going to be a challenge for me to try to get her off that baseline and make her feel uncomfortable and that she has to create. But I know that she will also do the exact same thing to me and try to make me feel uncomfortable. That is the chess game we play. Go out there and have fun with it, see who can execute the best that day, and that’s all there is to it.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism