Barty-Osaka showdown doesn’t materialize

They aren’t likely to meet at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, but at the 2022 Australian Open, it seemed likely that Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka were going to face each other in a major tournament.

Osaka’s early loss at the U.S. Open created a big points drop which — combined with a mini-hiatus from tennis to mentally recharge — moved her down to the No. 13 seed for this tournament in Melbourne Park. Osaka drew Barty in her section. They were slated to meet in the fourth round … IF, of course, they could both win three matches.

Barty advanced to that stage, but Osaka fell just short, losing to Amanda Anisimova in a compelling three-set match capped by a final-set match tiebreaker. Osaka lost in the third round in Melbourne, much as she lost to another youngster, Leylah Fernandez, in the third round of last summer’s U.S. Open in New York.

Osaka versus Barty at a hardcourt major? It will have to wait at least several more months, a point of frustration for tennis fans who want to see this blockbuster matchup materialize on the biggest stages in the sport.

Naturally, Osaka is unlikely to meet Barty at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, given the Japanese star’s struggles on clay and grass. On hardcourts, however, this is the big showdown women’s tennis fans would love to see.

Osaka is the queen of hardcourts, having won four majors on the surface in the past three and a half years. Barty is the clear World No. 1, the reigning Wimbledon champion with designs on winning a major on a third separate surface. Osaka is the big-event player. Barty is the most consistent player on tour. Two flavors of excellence, combined on the court, would create a significant occasion in women’s tennis. Whether you’re a tennis diehard or a casual fan or an Arizona sports betting enthusiast, this match would have appealed to you.

One day, we will get this matchup at a hardcourt major. Sunday — when the fourth round of the Australian Open begins — will not be that day. We will have to wait until at least September in New York.

One can only wonder how much Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka will have evolved by then. If there’s any comfort to be had in the fact that these two elite tennis players won’t meet at the 2022 Australian Open, it can be found in this realization: Their meeting deserved a stage bigger than the fourth round.

Maybe this is tennis’s way of ensuring that when Barty and Osaka do meet at a major, it’s in a final or — at the very, very least — a semifinal. If they do meet in a final, it will be worth the wait.

We can be patient a little longer … but we do want to see these two women in a big major-tournament match before too long.

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