All of 17, Anisimova of U.S. scores upset at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — All of 17, never the winner of a Grand Slam match until this week, Amanda Anisimova is making quite a first impression at the Australian Open.

Anisimova showed precisely why there are those who consider her a possible future star, producing one spectacular shot after another Friday to upset 11th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-3, 6-2 and reach the fourth round.

“I want to win this tournament,” Anisimova said, tapping her right index finger on a table for emphasis at her post-match news conference. “Right now.”

She is the youngest American to get this far at Melbourne Park since Jennifer Capriati in 1993 — and at any Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams at the 1998 French Open. Pretty heady company.

“This is an unreal feeling,” Anisimova said. “I can’t believe that this is happening right now.”

Believe it, kid. She captured a ton of attention on Day 5, when defending champion Caroline Wozniacki was knocked out by 2008 champion Maria Sharapova 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Another American woman, 35th-ranked Danielle Collins, joined Anisimova in earning a debut trip to the round of 16 at a major with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 19 Caroline Garcia. Up next for Collins will be three-time major champion and former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who needed less than an hour to overwhelm 240th-ranked Australian wild-card entry Kimberly Birrell 6-1, 6-0.

At the 2006 U.S. Open, when she was 19, Sharapova became the most recent teen to claim a Slam title. Anisimova grew up cheering for Sharapova — they now share an agent — and would love to match her feat of winning a major before age 20. Who would doubt her?

“I respect her a lot, because I think she’s young and has a great game. I mean, she’s really proving what she can do,” said Sharapova, who sat at the same table as Anisimova at their agent’s wedding last year. “She has a really bright future ahead of her.”

It’s not just that Anisimova, who was born in New Jersey and is based in Florida, has knocked off two seeded players already, including the hard-hitting Sabalenka, who was many a pundit’s pick for a deep run at Melbourne Park.

Or that she’s dropped a measly total of 17 games through three matches.

It’s the way the 87th-ranked Anisimova — there is no one younger in the WTA’s top 100 — is doing it, with clean and dangerous shotmaking and impeccable court coverage.

Take the shot — shot of the match? Of the tournament? Of the year so far? — that she produced at 3-0, 15-all in the second set.

It was a 12-stroke exchange in which Sabalenka held the upper hand throughout, steering Anisimova from corner to corner. It culminated with one sprint by Anisimova to her right for a forehand, then a sprint to her left for a backhand, followed by yet another switch of direction for a sprint back to her right. Her momentum carried her well wide of the doubles alley as she conjured up a “How did she do that?!” squash-like forehand that looped past Sabalenka and somehow landed in a corner for a winner, drawing raucous appreciation from the crowd at Margaret Court Arena — and an ever-so-slight smile from Anisimova.

“I’m really feeling good out here,” said Anisimova, who is coached by her father, as well as the same person who’s worked with her since she was 9. “I’m playing some really good tennis.”

That’s an understatement.

She delivered more winners than Sabalenka, 21-12, as well as fewer unforced errors, 13-9. Anisimova won all eight of her service games, saving the lone break point she faced. She broke the hard-serving Sabalenka four times.

Anisimova’s first trip to Australia, and third appearance in the main draw at a major, now progresses to Week 2 and a matchup against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who beat Belinda Bencic 6-1, 6-4.

On a rainy afternoon that saw the roofs closed on the three main courts, and play delayed on smaller arenas, Sharapova advanced to face No. 15 Ash Barty of Australia, while 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens beat No. 31 Petra Martic 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) and now meets Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.

In the men’s draw, Roger Federer dispatched one youngster and set his sights on facing another.

The 37-year-old Federer, seeking a third consecutive title in Melbourne, dismissed 21-year-old Taylor Fritz of the U.S. 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. Federer now takes on 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who eliminated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4.

“We all want them to win all the big stuff, but it just takes time,” Federer said about the newest generation of challengers. “I’m still giving them a hard time, sometimes.”

Also advancing was the man Federer beat in last year’s final, Marin Cilic. He overcame two match points — opponent Fernando Verdasco double-faulted one of them away — and erased a two-set hole to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8), 6-3 in a contest that lasted more than 4 hours and ended just before 1 a.m.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, now faces No. 22 Roberto Bautista-Agut, a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 winner against No. 10 Karen Khachanov.

Rafael Nadal beat 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 and now gets 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych.

Frances Tiafoe, an American who turns 21 on Sunday, got to the fourth round at a major for the first time by defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-7 (3), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Tiafoe now meets No. 20 Grigor Dimitrov, who is being coached by Andre Agassi.

Sorribes Tormo beats 2nd-seeded Trevisan at Parma Open

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PARMA, Italy — Sara Sorribes Tormo beat second-seeded Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-0 in the opening round of the Parma Ladies Open – marking the third consecutive first-round loss for this year’s French Open semifinalist.

Third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu advanced when Viktoriya Tomova retired with Begu leading 7-5, 5-1.

Danka Kovinic beat Oceane Dodin 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 and will next face 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Also on the red clay courts, Mayar Sherif of Egypt eliminated fifth-seeded Anna Bondar 7-5, 6-4; Elisabetta Cocciaretto defeated seventh-seeded Nuria Parrizas Diaz 7-5, 6-1; and Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti earned her first tour-level win by beating Romanian qualifier Gabriela Lee 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.