MELBOURNE, Australia: It took two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova took under an hour to beat American teenager Amanda Anisimova and return to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.
It took four match points and 2 hours, 22 minutes before Ash Barty fended off 2008 champion Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to get to the last eight of a major for the first time.
Barty rode the support of a partisan, parochial crowd on Rod Laver Arena to become the first Australian woman in a decade to make the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.
Sharapova was loudly booed when she returned from an extended break in the locker room after she lost the second set it was in the middle of Barty’s nine-game winning roll. A comeback was always on the cards, and Sharapova nearly delivered recovering from 4-0 down in the deciding set, forcing Barty to serve it out, and saving three match points when she did.
Two seasons back from her break to pursue a career in cricket, Barty has become Australia’s best chance of producing a local champion since 1978.
Her immediate concern, though, is getting past Kvitova, who beat her in the final of the Sydney International last week.
Kvitova wanted no part of another loss to 17-year-old Anisimova, who beat her last year at Indian Wells and was the youngest American since Jennifer Capriati in 1993 to make it this far at Melbourne Park.
And so she went on the attack early, breaking in the first game and needing only 59 minutes to win 6-2, 6-1. Kvitova was the model of consistency that the two other seeded players previously vanquished by Anisimova No. 24 Lesia Tsurenko and No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka were not.
She’s now on a nine-match winning streak, her four wins here come after a title run in Sydney, and is into the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2012.
“When I’m counting the years, it’s pretty long,” Kvitova said. “But, you know, sometimes the waiting time is worth for it. I’m not complaining at all.”
Kvitova broke Anisimova’s serve five times and never faced a break point. She got 86 percent of her first serves into play, and won all but five of the points when she did.
“I was going out today as if I’d never played her, because I knew she was going to go out and play her best,” Animisova said. “She came out with a really solid game plan against me. That kind of threw me off it was different from my other matches.”
Anisimova will go home with her first Grand Slam match wins to her credit, and a much higher profile. She had to log out of her social media accounts because it was distracting her between rounds.
“For sure it’s great that I got this far. I was hoping that I’d just win a first-round match, so getting this far means a lot to me,” she said. “Hopefully I can build on a lot of things.”
Among the later matches on Day 7, six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer was taking on 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal was against Tomas Berdych.
Kvitova had to miss the Australian Open in 2017 because she was still overcoming injuries to her left hand that she sustained in a home invasion the previous month at her place in the Czech Republic. She lost in the first round here last year.
She took the first three points of the match, converted her third breakpoint, and went up a double break at the next opportunity after a double-fault from Anisimova.
Anisimova was still taking big swings at the ball and hitting cleanly, but the left-handed Kvitova was consistently in the right place to hit winners. The first set was over in 32 minutes and Anisimova could only shrug, like she was asking what was happening.
In contrast to the first game, Anisimova held serve to open the second set. But that was her last. She was still in the contest in the fifth game when she was one point from holding again, but Kvitova won 10 straight points to take the match away from her again.
“You never know how the younger players are playing,” Kvitova said. “They’re here with nothing to lose, they’re fearless.
“I started pretty well (and) the nerves went a little bit out for me,” she added. “I’m really enjoying the time on court, and playing tennis.” (AP)
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