Before each day's play in Melbourne, we'll break down three must-see matches.
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Three to See, Australian Open Day 5: Osaka vs. Ansimova; Nadal vs. Khachanov; Alcaraz vs. Berrettini
The seeds are about to collide in Melbourne, giving us some tantalizing third-rounders.
Published Jan 20, 2022
Naomi Osaka vs. Amanda Anisimova
“I think it would be very exciting to play Naomi,” Anisimova said when the prospect of this third-round encounter was broached to her. “I’ve been wanting to play her for a while. It would be fun to match up with her.”
It should be fun for fans to see this match-up for the first time as well. If anyone on tour can match Osaka’s power, it’s Anisimova. There probably won’t be a lot of subtlety or trickery to what happens during the rallies—it will be a slugging contest. Osaka, a two-time Aussie Open champion, will be favored over the 60th-ranked Anisimova. But the American has a chance. She’s coming off a title run and seems to be enjoying a new-coach boost from her partnership with Darren Cahill. And it was a slugger, Garbiñe Muguruza, who came closest to beating Osaka at this tournament last year. Winner: Osaka
Matteo Berrettini vs. Carlos Alcaraz
The ballistic missiles will be flying in this one. Berrettini and Alcaraz hit some of the hardest and heaviest forehands in the game, and their two-handed backhands aren’t far behind. They’ve met once before, last year, indoors, in Vienna, and Alcaraz emerged the winner in a third-set tiebreaker. If he beats the world No. 7 again, we might start to think of the 18-year-old Spaniard, who hasn’t dropped a set in his first two matches, not as a potential Grand Slam champion of the future, but a potential Grand Slam champion of 2022. Either way, it shouldn’t be boring. Winner: Alcaraz
Video above: TenniStory, Carlos Alcaraz
Rafael Nadal vs. Karen Khachanov
Some players from the Next Gen have challenged and beaten Nadal; Khachanov is not one of them. Rafa is 7-0 against the Russian, and six of those wins have come in straight sets. But their one meeting at a major was a doozy; at the 2018 US Open, Nadal won in four very tight sets that lasted four hours.
In general, Khachanov is able to push Nadal and gain court position in rallies, but he hasn’t been consistent enough with his putaway forehand. Rafa does what he does: Makes him hit one more ball than he would like. Winner: Nadal