MELBOURNE (Reuters) - American teenager Amanda Anisimova upstaged 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka 6-3 6-2 to storm into the fourth round of the Australian Open and signal the arrival of a new force in women’s tennis on Friday.
The fearless 17-year-old bullied her much higher ranked opponent who looked shell-shocked by the power being generated at the other end of the court.
It was Anisimova’s third consecutive straight sets win, which included a 6-0 6-2 destruction of 24th seed Lesia Tsurenko. She will play the winner of Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.
The youngest player in the draw said she wouldn’t mind being a teenage Grand Slam winner like one of the players she most looks up to, Maria Sharapova.
“I want to win this tournament right now,” the Miami teen said, when asked what she longed for.
Anisimova showed no nerves despite playing in only her third Grand Slam main draw, and not having previously gone past the first round.
She broke Sabalenka’s opening service game, and by the third game of the match the usually dominant Belarusian was glancing skywards as if wondering how her slightly-built opponent could punch like a heavyweight.
“Definitely, I was trying to be really aggressive today because she plays really aggressive too and we are both really big hitters,” the American said.
With youthful disregard for the consequences, Anisimova refused to take a backward step, half-volleying her opponent’s powerful shots when required.
Anisimova, ranked 87, might have a strong first serve and forehand, but it will be her double-fisted backhand that, should she fulfil her obvious potential, stood out.
On the backhand wing, she took the ball as early as anyone else on tour, yet always appeared balanced, and never rushed.
She treated Sabalenka’s strong first serve with disdain, by going for outright winners off the return.
Although that particular tactic had modest success - the American seemed unperturbed even after making several errors - it sent a not-too-subtle message that she was the one in control.
The eleventh seed’s muffled frustration became increasingly audible, and after getting out-hit on match point she whacked the ball into the stadium roof in angst, after missing out on an opportunity to advance to the last 16.
The victor blew kisses to the crowd.
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in Melbourne; editing by Amlan Chakraborty