There was a big shock on Friday at the Australian Open as 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova defeated 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2 in a little over an hour. On The Tennis Podcast, presenters David Law (BBC 5 Live, BT Sport) and Catherine Whitaker (Eurosport, Amazon Prime) revel in the nature of Anisimova’s victory.
What is it about Anisimova’s game that’s so impressive? Could she possibly go on and win the whole tournament? She faces Petra Kvitova next, whom she beat at Indian Wells last year.
If she does win the title, she will become the first teenager since Maria Sharapova in 2006 to win a Grand Slam. Sharapova’s victory over defending champion Caroline Wozniacki is discussed.
Elsewhere, Law and Whitaker agree there was sense of “man against boy” as Rafael Nadal dominated Alex de Minaur in the night session. Is Nadal playing better than expected? Did the result tell us anything we didn’t know about De Minaur?
Frances Tiafoe backed up his win over Kevin Anderson by beating Andreas Seppi. Is that indicative of yet another step forward for the young American? Tiafoe plays Grigor Dimitrov next, and Whitaker provides an insight into Dimitrov’s coaching partnership with Andre Agassi.
There’s also a preview to day six. Why is Simona Halep vs Venus Williams not scheduled for the Rod Laver Arena? Will Denis Shapovalov have any joy against Novak Djokovic?
The Tennis Podcast will be produced daily throughout the Australian Open. It is produced in association with The Telegraph.
MELBOURNE— Here are five thoughts on Day Five of the Australian Open, which saw some major upsets and the continued greatness of a 20-time major champion.
• The tennis version of A Star is Born. American Amanda Anisimova, age 17, scored the upset of the day—an “eye popper,” as the Aussies would say—absolutely crushing No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka, 6-3, 6-2. Third on the odds board after Serena and Angelique Kerber, Sabalenka had no response for the depth and defense of Anisimova. The youngest player to reach the fourth round of a major in more than a decade, Anisimova has a natural feel and natural maturity. We used to take it as an article of faith that teenagers were no longer capable of winning majors. Anisimova has the tennis salon rethinking that.
It’s the kids, we’re told, that have these short attention spans. But 37-year-old Roger Federer sure didn’t waste any time today. The defending champ here—and 20-time major winner—needed jus 86 minutes on the court today to beat 21-year-old American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. It was as if he were playing Fortnite. After a year that didn’t meet his standards, Federer has been brilliant here so far. He is serving well, moving well, showing off his extravagant talent as well as ever. But he’s also been a model of efficiency. Averaging just 15 seconds between points, he has breezed through his matches. He’s now into week two with lots of confidence and little expended energy.
• Federer’s next opponent? Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, the 20-year-old banger, who’s seeded No. 15 and playing like it. Today, he hung with No. 19 Nikoloz Basilashvili in rallies and induced errors with his defense, winning 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Tsitsipas is improving in real time—this is only his second Australian Open—and his unique game has confounded opponents as much as his power has. He also possesses a unique perspective, more interested in photography and film and (get this) reading books than in the trappings of celebrity. Today he spoke about the social scene in men’s tennis: “Actually, I was shy when I was a kid but not anymore. I learn to find my comfort when I’m with people. I think I’m comfortable meeting new people and having a discussion with someone. Not many of the players, you know, want to be friends on the tour. That’s a problem. That’s an issue, you know, unless you speak the same language.” Tsitsipas gets a big test next, a likely Saturday Night session against the GOAT. It’s all part of the career progression…
• Eleven—eleven!—years after winning the title here, Maria Sharapova scored a big win, beating the most recent champ here, Caroline Wozniazki, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. This may well have marked Sharpova biggest win since her doping suspension. That she is seeded No. 30 here says plenty about the rough road she’s traversed over the past year. Today, though, was vintage Sharapova: offensive tennis, aggressive mindset, relishing of battle—plus uncommonly strong serving as she lost just five of her service points in the third set. Next up: Australia’s own Ashleigh Barty, the No. 15 seed.
American Amanda Anisimova is waking up to an entirely new world, one in which she’s the talk of the tennis world after an upset in the third round of the Australian Open.
And at 17 years old, it’s pushing her into notable — and elite — territory.
Anisimova handled 11th seeded Aryna Sabalenka with ease, 6-3 6-2, to move into the fourth round of the tournament. She defeated 24th seed Lesia Tsurenko, 6-0 6-2, in the second round and won the first round in straight sets as well.
Who is Amanda Anisimova?
Anisimova is the child of Russian parents and a native of Freehold Township, New Jersey. She won the 2017 Junior US Open championship at 16 and entered her first Grand Slam in 2018 when offered a wild card after back-to-back tournament finals in preceding months.
She didn’t win a Grand Slam match until this week, her third entry. The 5-foot-11 teenager is ranked 87th, the youngest in the top 100.
Born Aug. 31, 2001, she’s the first player, woman or man, born in the 2000s to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam. The youth are coming.
Anisimova is in good company.
“I would want to be the second person to win a slam as a teenager,” she said with a smile at post-match remarks.
In a story for the Australian Open website, she extrapolated:
“I want to win this tournament right now. Honestly, I loved playing out there today. I think I have never had that much fun in a match before, and the crowd was just amazing, supporting me all the time.”
Why will she keep impressing?
For one, she’s only 17. A strong career is laid out in front of her whether she continues to win at this tournament or not.
Her coverage of the court is dubbed “extraordinary” and her first serve and forehand strong. It’s her double-fisted backhand that is generating admiring comments into the fourth round. From Reuters’ report on the match:
“On the backhand wing, she took the ball as early as anyone else on tour, yet always appeared balanced, and never rushed.”
And her own remarks to the media:
“A lot of people tell me my backhand is really good. I like playing forehand and backhand. I don’t really think I have a better shot.”
And comments from Nick Saviano, a veteran American coach and main Anisimova mentor, in a New York Times profileahead of her first Grand Slam:
“She’s a good athlete and a very strong, powerful player. The ball kind of explodes off her racket, so she tends to hit a lot of winners naturally when just hitting normal groundstrokes. But she also has the will and determination to be someone who wants to be absolutely as good as they can possibly be.”
Rest of the final 16
Sharapova, 31, took out No. 3 seed and defending champion Carolina Wozniacki to move into the fourth round. She’ll face Australian Ashleigh Barty.
Americans Sloane Stephens, ranked fifth, and Danielle Collins are also in that side of the bracket.
Serena Williams will play for a spot in the final 16 today, while sister Venus Williams will take on top-seeded Simona Halep to move on. American Madison Keys (17) is also playing today, against Elise Mertens (12) of Belgium.