Career-best wins for
Anisimova, Collins, Tiafoe
Ashley Marshall | January 18, 2019
A trio of young Americans began the week by dipping their toes in the Australian Open water. Now, as the first major of the year reaches the midway point, the threesome is wading perhaps unexpectedly deep in uncharted territory.
Amanda Anisimova, Danielle Collins and Frances Tiafoe each advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in their careers on Day 5 in Melbourne, ensuring the U.S. will be well represented in the second week Down Under.
Anisimova (pictured above) upset No. 11 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, in 65 minutes inside Margaret Court Arena, while former collegiate standout Collins defeated 19th-seeded Caroline Garcia of France by the same scoreline in a tick over one hour, also in the tournament's No. 2 stadium.
Tiafoe earned his place in the Round of 16 with a hard-fought win over Italian Andreas Seppi, 6-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, twice fighting back from a set down on Court 3.
The trio is joined in the fourth round by 2017 US Open champion and No.
5 seed Sloane Stephens, who needed a pair of tiebreak sets to edge No. 31 seed Petra Martic of Croatia.
At 17 years old, Anisimova is the youngest of the American winners on Day 5, but you would barely know it by the maturity and consistency she’s shown this week in Australia.
Anisimova had never played a main-draw match in Melbourne before Monday, and she had never been to the second round of a major before beating Monica Niculescu of Romania on Day 1.
Anisimova has gone from strength to strength through the first three rounds, dropping a combined seven games in her past two matches. She will play No. 8 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Sunday.
“I had a lot of confidence going into the tournament, like anything is possible,” Anisimova said. “But I was taking it one match at a time, first-round win would be amazing, and I just kept winning.
“Hopefully I can win my next round, but this is a great accomplishment already.”
In a similar vein, world No. 35 Collins, who had never been past the first round of a major in her five previous attempts, is also playing herself into contention in Melbourne. Since rallying from a set down to upset No. 14 seed Julia Goerges in her opening match, Collins has looked impressive in wins over countrywoman Sachia Vickery and Garcia.
Friday’s 63-minute win over the Frenchwoman was the least amount of time she’s spent on court in three matches, and it sets up a marquee matchup with former Australian Open and US Open champion Angelique Kerber.
The winner of that match will play either Stephens, into the fourth round for the first time in Australia since 2014, or unseeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the quarterfinals.
And with Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Madison Keys all playing third-round matches on Saturday, there’s a possibility of six American women advancing to the final 16 of the Australian Open for the first time in almost three decades. In 1984, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Kathy Rinaldi, Sharon Walsh and Barbara Potter made the Round of 16, in what was then a 64-player field.
In the men’s draw, Frances Tiafoe kept the U.S. flag flying with his win over Seppi. The lone American left in the draw, Tiafoe will celebrate his 21st birthday Sunday with a fourth-round clash against No. 20 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
By reaching the Round of 16, Tiafoe surpasses his previous best performance at a Grand Slam – a third-round appearance at Wimbledon in 2018.
“I feel like I have a chance against anyone when I step on the court,” Tiafoe said. “I love playing in big stages. I always play well. Whether or not I get the win or not, it's irrelevant. I always play a good match. I usually put myself in a position to win the match. Lately I have been doing it, since last year.
“Now I just kind of thrive for those moments. I want those moments.”
The wins for all four Americans Friday will also likely have a profound impact the rest of the season. Tiafoe and Collins are each projected to climb into the Top 32 in the world – new career highs for both players – while Anisimova is likely to jump more than 25 places from her current career-best rank of No. 87. As it stands, Stephens is currently set to become the world No. 2 for the first time in her career.