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Australian Open: Osaka, Barty advance toward showdown

Osaka will next face Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who beat Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-2, 7-5. The winner of that is likely to face top-ranked Ash Barty in the fourth round.

By: Reuters | Melbourne |
Updated: January 19, 2022 5:44:34 pm
Naomi Osaka of Japan waves after defeating Madison Brengle of the U.S. in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

For the first set, Naomi Osaka’s rediscovered love of the game meant it was anything but fun for Madison Brengle in the third round of the Australian Open. The defending champion conceded only four points in the first four games Wednesday and rifled forehand winners seemingly at will as she breezed to 6-0 in a mere 20 minutes.

The second set started with Brengle celebrating a service hold like she’d finished a long-distance race, but gradually the No. 54-ranked American ground down Osaka to a stage in the seventh game where she finally converted a break-point opportunity, after missing her first nine chances. That triggered a change in the former No. 1-ranked Osaka, who responded by breaking back immediately and winning the last nine points to complete a 6-0, 6-4 victory. She will next face Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American who beat Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-2, 7-5. The winner of that is likely to face top-ranked Ash Barty in the fourth round.

Osaka won the Australian Open last year, her fourth Grand Slam title, but then withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon as she took a break for her mental health. She then was ousted early at the U.S. Open. After a long off-season to reset, she’s unbeaten in five matches in Australia this year. Asked how she rated her form, Osaka said that’s not how she’s approaching things.

“Honestly I’m trying not to do that,” she said in an on-court TV interview. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If I compare myself with the past, I’ll never be satisfied.

“The goal for me is just to have fun … (and) I think we’re accomplishing that.”

Earlier, Ash Barty eased into the third round of the Australian Open with the minimum of fuss on Wednesday, overwhelming Italian qualifier Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.

The top seed hammered 11 winners to wrap up the first set in 25 minutes and was equally dominant in the second, sealing the victory in under an hour when her opponent netted a backhand.

Bronzetti, the world number 142, failed to muster up a single break point over the contest as the Wimbledon champion lobbed, sliced and pounded her into submission in the bright Melbourne sunshine.

Barty, hoping to end Australia’s 44-year wait for a homegrown women’s champion, next faces another Italian in Camila Giorgi with defending champion Naomi Osaka potentially waiting in the fourth round.

In other early second-round results on Day 3 of the year’s first tennis Grand Slam event, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka beat Jil Teichmann 6-1, 6-2, and No. 30 Camila Giorgi beat Tereza Martincova 6-2, 7-6 (2).

Top-ranked Ash Barty, aiming to be the first Australian woman to win the home championship since 1978, was playing Lucia Bronzetti on the main court at Melbourne Park.

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(With AP inputs)

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First published on: 19-01-2022 at 08:56:04 am

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