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Naomi Osaka loses at Australian Open to Amanda Anisimova

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Naomi Osaka loses at Australian Open to Amanda Anisimova

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam singles champion who nearly walked away from tennis last year, was knocked out of the Australian Open on Friday by unseeded American Amanda Anisimova.

Anisimova won in three tense sets, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5), after saving two match points in the third set.

“Certainly, I think I fought for every point and I can’t be sad about that,” Osaka said. “I am not God. I can’t win every game. So I just have to take that into account and know that it would be nice to win the tournament, but it’s really special.

Osaka, who hasn’t played a competitive match since the US Open, seemed to acknowledge that her game hasn’t quite gotten back to where she thinks it can go yet.

“I think the pace of his ball surprised me, but other than that it was fun to play,” she said, her hands clasped on her left cheek as she spoke.

“I know there are days when I’m going to have bad days and days when I’m going to have good days,” she added. “It’s always random, and I never know. But no matter what happens to me, I know I want to leave the field knowing that I fought for every point. Today there were things I thought I could improve on but even with that I had two match points and even with that it’s something I can be proud of myself.

Osaka, 24, was returning to major tournament action in Melbourne after taking an extended break from playing to rekindle his love of the sport. His return came after an exceptionally emotional year in which his candor about his mental health struggles altered the discussion of both his successes and his more recent – ​​and painfully public – disappointments.

Osaka was only ranked 13th here, but showed plenty of fire and desire in her third-round match against Anisimova: generating trademark thunder with her heavy groundstrokes and pounding her fist and shouting “Come on! ” to commemorate his successes. But Anisimova, long considered one of the game’s most promising young players, held remarkably firm, coming back from an inconsistent first set and finding her range in her opener against Osaka.

“Coming into this game, I knew I had to play hard if I wanted to give myself a chance,” Anisimova said. “Naomi is always going to play well, and she’s an absolute champion, so I knew I had to really up my game and try to be aggressive. I think that’s what I started doing in the second set. Honestly, I’m so grateful that I was able to play so well today.

A semi-finalist at the French Open aged 17 in 2019, Anisimova seemed poised to play a leading role in the game consistently as a teenager, but that was before the family tragedy: the death of her father and coach. long-timer, Konstantin, from a heart attack. in August 2019 shortly before the US Open.

Osaka entered their meeting carrying her own burdens. Last year had been unforgettable for 24-year-old Osaka, who entered it as the dominant figure in her sport and the highest-paid female athlete in the world, and ended it as something quite different.

His game began to deteriorate in early spring, and a confrontation with French Open officials over his refusal to appear for the mandatory post-match press conferences led to his withdrawal from the tournament. Afterwards, she went public with her years-long battle with depression, took two months off, then returned to the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the torch but lost in the third round under relentless pressure to excel.

She said Friday that she is now doing her best to look to the future.

“I just want to go into this year knowing that I’ll be playing all year and having the best attitude ever,” she said. “I will fight for every point and even if I win or lose, I will just walk out of the field trying the best I can. And there’s no way anyone can expect more from me because they saw how hard I fought.

Anisimova’s win halted the most anticipated match of the tournament, a potential fourth-round duel between Osaka and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia. Now Anisimova will face Barty instead.

Naomi Osaka loses at Australian Open to Amanda Anisimova

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