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Anisimova beats Osaka to set up Barty showdown

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Defending champion Naomi Osaka was dumped out of the Australian Open third round yesterday by unseeded American Amanda Anisimova to open up the draw for title favourite Ashleigh Barty.

Anisimova, ranked 60th in the world, saved two match points to stun the former world number one 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10/5) and will now face Barty in the last 16.

It was a hugely disappointing end to Osaka’s reign in Melbourne, having also gone out at the same stage at the US Open in September, after which she took a break from tennis.

“I’m speechless, I can’t stop smiling,” said the 20-year-old Anisimova.

Australia’s Barty was a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 winner over Italian 30th seed Camila Giorgi, inching closer to a maiden Grand Slam crown on home soil.

ABOVE & BELOW: Naomi Osaka bounces her racket in frustration; and Amanda Anisimova celebrates her victory in the third round match at the Australian Open. PHOTOS: AP

“It was a pretty good performance,” said Barty, 25, who is now 7-0 for the season and is yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park.

Also into round four is former two-time champion Victoria Azarenka. The 24th seed crushed 15th seed Elina Svitolina as she tries to climb back to the top of women’s tennis.

The 32-year-old Belarusian turned back the clock with a 6-0, 6-2 dismissal of her Ukrainian opponent and will now play French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova for a place in the quarter-finals.

“I think that’s really what I’m trying to say is that ladder I want to climb step-by-step,” said Azarenka, who won back-to-back Australian Opens in 2012 and 2013, of her efforts to get back among the elite.

“I think the danger for me is to try to skip a few steps. I think that is something I’m actually learning not to do. That’s been helpful.”