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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, January 22, 2022

Amanda Anisimova

Amanda Anisimova meets world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in an Australian Open fourth round rematch of their Roland Garros semifinal that changed Barty's life.

Photo credit: Getty

Weekend warriors should celebrate Day 7 of the Australian Open.

A revitalized returning champion, the world No. 1’s continued committed quest and a slew of bold shotmakers are all in action on what forecasters say will be a scorching, sunny Sunday in Melbourne.

Here’s what we’ll be watching on Day 7 of the Australian Open.

Australian Open Day 7 Schedule

Australian Open TV Schedule

Chasing History, Barty Faces Anisimova Test

(1) Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs. No. 60 Amanda Anisimova (USA)
Head-to-head: Barty leads 1-0
Rod Laver Arena

Brief rivalries sometimes spark career-changing electricity.

Ashleigh Barty calls her 2019 Roland Garros semifinal comeback against Amanda Anisimova “a massive turning point” in her life story.

Staring down a bleak one-set, 0-3 deficit, Barty stormed back to subdue both Anisimova and arduous conditions, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, to reach her first Roland Garros final in wild ride on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Barty went on to beat Marketa Vondrousova to win her maiden major in Paris.

The explosive Anisimova played party crasher saving two match points to stun defending AO champion Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(10-5) in the third round after she beat Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic in round two.

Working with coach Darren Cahill on a trial basis, Anisimova is playing proactive patterns riding a career-best eight-match winning streak, with five of those wins coming in three sets.

The Florida-based Anisimova hails from the same Freehold, New Jersey hometown of Bruce Springsteen, but isn’t a born to run type of player. Anisimova is at her best commanding the center of the court, cracking her backhand and forcing opponents to defend. Showing her instinct for the kill shot, Anisimova more than doubled Osaka’s winner total—46 to 21—and showed toughness under pressure saving nine of 10 break points vs. the four-time Grand Slam champion.

Anisimova has a solid swing volley and will need to attack at times and force Barty to try to pass off her weaker backhand wing—that backhand pass is the about the lone less than stellar shot in Barty’s awesome arsenal.

In their Roland Garros match, Barty blew a 5-0 first-set lead as Anisimova hit through the 5’5” Aussie to come within three games of the French Open final. Facing that one-set, 0-3 deficit, Barty began using her slice backhand more to disrupt the rhythm of rallies and give her time to run around the backhand and blast her favored forehand to end Anisimova's fairy-tale run.

If Anisimova is to pull off a second straight upset, she must serve with the self-assurance she showed against Osaka (served 61 percent with 11 aces), attack the Aussie’s second serve and most importantly beat Barty up in backhand exchanges.

Experience and the ability to mix the spins and speeds of her shots helped Barty unsettle Anisimova and turn the match around in Paris look for her to apply it all again in Melbourne.

A ruthless Barty has permitted just eight games in three tournament wins has served flawlessly bidding to become the first Aussie woman in 44 years to hoist the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

Key questions: How will Barty respond to the pressure of facing the red-hot Anisimova rather than defending champion Osaka and what is the Aussie’s answer for Anisimova’s tremendous two-hander if the American can impose that pattern of play?

Zverev Plays for Third Straight AO Quarterfinal

(3) Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. (14) Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
Head-to-head: Zverev leads 4-2
Margaret Court Arena

A major proving ground match for both men.

Since Denis Shapovalov upset world No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Montreal, he’s lost 17 straight matches to Top 5-ranked players, including all three of his meetings vs. the elite in Grand Slam play.

Olympic gold-medal champion Zverev is 1-6 in his last seven matches vs. Top 20 opponents at majors with his lone Top 20 Slam win in that span coming against Jannik Sinner at the US Open last summer. Overall, Zverev is 4-14 vs. Top 20 opponents in Grand Slam play.

A clash between two dangerous power players will come down to first serve, first strike and strength vs. strength: who wins pivotal points pitting the left-handed Shapovalov’s twisting topspin forehand vs. the right-handed Zverev’s flat declarative two-handed backhand. Shapovalov has won two of their last three meetings, but Zverev prevailed in their last meeting, 7-6 in the third set, at the 2021 ATP Cup.

Zverev has dropped serve just twice in three tournament victories and is averaging 14 aces per match. Shapovalov has been more up and down on serve, but subdued towering Reilly Opelka 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the third round. Facing Opelka’s ballistic serve should gives Shapovalov, whose backhand return is still very much a work in progress, some preparation for the 6’6” German’s wrecking ball serve.

Two-time ATP Finals champion Zverev is playing for his third straight AO quarterfinal, while Shapovalov is playing for his first Melbourne quarterfinal. If the lefthander makes it he will join Milos Raonic and former University of Miami standout Mike Belkin as the third Canadian man to reach the AO quarterfinals.

Shotmakers Showdown: Badosa vs Keys

(6) Paula Badosa(ESP) vs. No. 51 Madison Keys (USA)
Head-to-head: First Meeting
Rod Laver Arena

Aggressive baseliners are both skilled driving daggers down the line to slash open points.

Indian Wells champion Badosa rides an eight-match winning streak into this match. Winning is addictive and Badosa is hooked posting a 51-18 record since the start of 2021, including capturing her third career title in Sydney last week where she beat reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova in the final.

A 2017 US Open finalist, Keys has the explosiveness and shotmaking skills to go deep in Melbourne if she can continue to temper her prodigious power with patience and play a bit higher percentage. Keys joins Jessica Pegula, Amanda Anisimova and Danielle Collins as one of four American women through to the last 16, Keys, who turned up for Melbourne winning her sixth career title in Adelaide, arguably has the highest upside of any American still standing if she can produce the right mix of command and control.

It's an interesting match-up in that both thrive off of pace and should see plenty of it.

On paper, Badosa is the better mover and more consistent player, but Keys' blistering serve and heavy forehand may well be the two biggest weapons in the match. Keys knocked off 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in round one, closed her third-round win with a powerful tiebreak performance and owns 19 career Top-10 wins though only three have come at Slams. Badosa has already supplanted Garbine Muguruza, who fell to Alize Cornet in round two, as Spanish No. 1, rising to a career-high No. 5 in the live rankings

In All-Lefty Battle, Nadal Aims For 45th Grand Slam Quarterfinal

(6) Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. No. 69 Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Head-to-head: Nadal leads 2-0
Rod Laver Arena

Rafael Nadal called his four-set win over hard-hitting Karen Khachanov the best match of his comeback.

The 2009 AO champion will try to sustain his roll—and perfect start to the 2022 season—playing for his 14th AO quarterfinal, which would equal former No. 1 and Aussie legend John Newcombe’s mark for second-most Melbourne quarterfinals behind Roger Federer (15).

Nadal has won all four sets vs. the flat-hitting Mannarino and his last 20 Tour-level matches vs. lefties since losing to Denis Shapovalov at the 2017 Montreal Masters.

Give it up for the 33-year-old Mannarino, who has quietly delivered one of the best Grand Slams of his career.

The Frenchman’s brief backswings and skill taking the ball on the rise helped him hold off Aussie James Duckworth in a five-set opener. Then Mannarino turned it up sweeping 10th-seeded Miami Open champion Hubert Hurkacz before upsetting 2021 semifinalist and No. 18-seeded Aslan Karatsev in a gripping four hour, 38-minute grind.

Contesting his 47th Grand Slam, Mannarino is playing for his first major quarterfinal.

The question is: How much will Mannarino have left in the tank after one of the most punishing and rewarding wins of his career?

We can be sure that the ferocious Nadal will test the Frenchman’s legs from the outset. Nadal was superb shortening points against Khachanov—he won 23 of 26 trips to net and belted 39 winners in that match—but may opt to move Mannarino, who doesn’t hit nearly as hard Khachanov but redirects precisely, to take his legs out.


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