Amanda Anisimova takes out defending champ in Madrid

Unseeded Amanda Anisimova defeated defending champion and No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka in first-round action Thursday at the Mutua Madrid Open.

The 20-year-old American improved to 4-0 all-time against Sabalenka with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory in one hour and 55 minutes on the clay in the Spanish capital.

“It’s always enjoyable to accept the challenge, even when it’s a tough match, and push yourself and see how far you can go,” Anisimova said. “I enjoy these matches, even though they’re very tough … especially when you get to win them.”

Sabalenka, 23, of Belarus, rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the deciding set to even it up at 4-4, only to see Anisimova sweep eight of the next 10 points to finish the match.

“She’s a tough player as well,” Anisimova said. “Every match here is going to be tough, so I’m just going to go out and play my tennis, and hopefully, I can get through it.”

Her second-round opponent will be Croatian qualifier Petra Martic, a 7-6 (6), 6-1 winner against Russia’s Liudmila Samsonova. Anisimova and Martic split their first two meetings.

No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova was also knocked out in the first round, falling 6-4, 7-5 to fellow Czech Republic native Marie Bouzkova. Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova ousted No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

No. 2 Paula Badosa of Spain saved all five break points in a 6-3, 6-0 win over Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova. Badosa’s second-round opponent is two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep of Romania, who rolled to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Zhang Shuai of China.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting match, because it’s going to be quite a clay-court match very tactically, and I’m really looking forward to that,” Badosa said of facing Halep. “Of course she’s a great champion. So maybe I’m the favorite or no, I will try to give my best, because for sure she will push me to the limits.

No. 8 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia defeated Italy’s Jasmine Paolini 7-6 (9), 6-1.

Other seeded players safely advancing at the WTA 1000 event included No. 11 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and No. 14 Coco Gauff. Bencic beat Romania’s Irina Begu 6-4, 6-1 and Gauff eliminated Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-0, 6-2. Gauff won the match’s first eight games and never lost her serve. No. 15 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus defeated Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 7-6 (5), 6-3.

Other winners on Thursday included Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, Russia’s Varvara Gracheva, Spain’s Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic, Slovakia’s Tamara Zidansek and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.

–Field Level Media

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