The Break: Olympia's perfect backhand

Before each day's play in Melbourne, we'll break down three must-see matches.

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Ash Barty vs. Amanda Anisimova

Anisimova is coming off the biggest win of her career, over Naomi Osaka. Now she’ll play the woman who handed her what may be the most painful loss of her career, in the 2019 French Open semifinals. That day Barty came back from a set down to reach the final and win her first major title. Three years later, Barty is No. 1 in the world, and has added a Wimbledon crown to her résumé. Anisimova, meanwhile, has finally regained her 2019 form after three mostly lost and frustrating seasons.

The Australian is the favorite, but the match should largely be on the American’s racquet. If Anisimova is connecting on her serve and ground strokes, she can overpower Barty. But is the 20-year-old ready to follow up her biggest win with an even bigger one? Barty played another big-hitter, Camila Giorgi, in her last match, and came through with flying colors. Winner: Barty

The Australian is the favorite, but the match should largely be on the American’s racquet.

The Australian is the favorite, but the match should largely be on the American’s racquet.

Alexander Zverev vs. Denis Shapovalov

A grinder vs. a slasher. Zverev’s game plan—hit aces and don’t miss ground strokes—has become more and more foolproof over the last eight months. And it’s mostly worked against Shapovalov over the years as well; the German is 4-2 against the Canadian.

But Shapovalov has a slasher’s chance. With his leaping aggression and putaway power from both sides, he’s one guy who could potentially break down Zverev’s defenses. But if Zverev can find Shapovalov’s weaker backhand return enough times, he should survive and advance. Winner: Zverev

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Paula Badosa vs. Madison Keys

The 24-year-old Spaniard and the 26-year-old American have never played. Badosa has been in form for the better part of a year, and her No. 6 ranking and Indian Wells title prove it. But she has been playing this tournament with her thigh strapped, and she had a hiccup in her last match, losing a lead and surrendering the second set to Marta Kostyuk. Keys, by contrast, has been in form for only about two weeks, enough for her to win a title and come through in a number of tight sets. She says she’s playing with more “shape”—i.e. spin—on her ground strokes, and you could see the difference that makes in her win over Qiang Wang in the third round.

In that match Keys found the balance of aggression and margin that has eluded her for most of her career. Whether she can maintain that balance will likely decide her fate in this one. Winner: Badosa