Seventeen-year-old American Amanda Anisimova crushed everyone’s trendy pick to win, Aryna Sabalenka.
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.
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• 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…
• The roller coaster ride that is Sloane Stephens’ tennis career is back on the ascent. Dictating play and sustaining her quality until the end, Stephens beat Petra Martic of Croatia 7-6, 7-6. Stephens came here with little momentum and less coach. (She is “on a break” with her usual aide-de-camp, Kamau Murray.) No problem; she has played six sets, lost of none of them, and now has a winnable match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a date in the quarters.
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• 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.