With a mixture of humor and precociousness, Amanda Anisimova defined the greatest dream of her young tennis career.
“I want to win this tournament,” she said with a laugh and a blush, “right now.”
A win at this tournament — the Australian Open, where she’s making her second Grand Slam appearance — would signal the arrival of one of the new faces of American tennis. Anisimova, 17, is the 87th-ranked player in the world — and she has upset two seeded players in her three Australian Open matches. Already in 2019 she has wins against three top-35 opponents.
Now she’s headed to the fourth round of the Australian Open, in line for at least a $260,000 payday. And when she returns home to Florida, she’ll still have a year to go on her provisional driver’s license.
“Speechless” she tweeted Friday, “but let’s keep this dream week going.”
The list of things Anisimova is the youngest American woman to accomplish keeps growing. She’s the youngest to advance this far at the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati in 1993. She’s the youngest to go this far at any Grand Slam since Serena Williams at the 1998 French Open. It was a year and four months ago that Anisimova won the junior U.S. Open, and a year and seven months ago that she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2017 French Open.
“That seems like a long time ago,” Anisimova said in a news conference Thursday. “I feel like a lot of things have changed since then. I’ve changed as a person and as a player.”
She opened 2019 by defeating No. 34 Barbora Strycova at the Auckland Open. She rattled off wins against No. 24 Lesia Tsurenko, 6-0, 6-2, on Tuesday in the second round and No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka, a title contender, 6-3, 6-2, in the third round.
“I believe in myself so much more than I ever did,” she said. “In this tournament it’s just trusting myself, and that’s been why I’ve played really well.”
Tennis magazine said she “demonstrated potential to rise much higher” than 87th in the world. That she overpowered Sabalenka, a power-puncher herself, and forced her to play defense were marks of the teenager’s surprising dominance.
That she still covered so much ground was beyond impressive: “It was proof that the youngster can improvise as well as strategize,” gushed Tennis Now.
And to think the whole affair took a tidy 65 minutes.
“I’m really feeling good out here,” Anisimova said. “I’m playing some really good tennis.”
She broke Sabalenka, and captivated the crowd in Melbourne, with a savvy winner that some analysts have called the shot of the year.
After a 12-stroke rally in which Sabalenka pushed Anisimova from left corner to right corner and back again, the American lofted a spinning ball that somehow curled over and around Sabalenka and sat down in the back-left corner. The crowd at Margaret Court Arena roared. Television cameras even caught a floor umpire smirking. “Might be the best point I play in 2019,” she tweeted.
And flush with confidence after her victory over the Belorussian, Anisimova has insisted her time to ascend in the American tennis consciousness is now. In 10 tournament appearances in 2018, she advanced to the round of 16 six times, including a semifinal appearance at Indian Wells in February and a trip to the finals at the Japan Women’s Open in Hiroshima in September.
Born in New Jersey to Russian immigrants, Anisimova grew up in Florida, where she and her older sister, Maria, trained as elite tennis players. At 2 years old, she saw Maria playing and begged her parents to let her play, too. Soon her father, Konstantin Anisimov, became her primary coach.
“Until she was 7, no one touched her,” her mother, Olga, told the New York Times of Anisimova’s technique in 2017. “That was the development.”
“She’s a good athlete and a very strong, powerful player,” said Nick Saviano, who coached her through her teenage years. “The ball kind of explodes off her racket,” he told the Times, “so she tends to hit a lot of winners naturally when just hitting normal groundstrokes. But she also has the will and determination to be someone who wants to be absolutely as good as they can possibly be.”
She grew up watching and rooting for Maria Sharapova, the tall Russian with a power serve and length to cover the court. The two now share an agent and are slated to face each other if they advance to the quarterfinals. First, Anisimova would have to score another upset, against eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion.
“I respect her a lot, because I think she’s young and has a great game. I mean, she’s really proving what she can do,” Sharapova told the Associated Press. “She has a really bright future ahead of her.”
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