Anisimova is ready for Halep, the next step on teenager’s remarkable ascent.

Amanda Anisimova, the latest tennis comet, plays with a maturity and assurance that belies her years. It’s only when she’s quizzed about how it feels to be in the Roland-Garros quarter-final at just 17 and up against the defending champion Simona Halep that she, rather understandably, sounds a bit like some wide-eyed teen.

“I mean, I can’t describe how excited I am!” beamed the American after becoming the youngest player since Nicole Vaidisova 13 years ago to reach this stage in Paris. “It’s amazing playing Simona. She won it the previous year so honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better matchup. I’m just extremely happy and excited.

“If you would have told me I would have been in the quarters this year, I wouldn’t believe you right now. When I was playing two years ago, I really wanted to just win one match and I would have been the happiest person alive!”

Well, that ‘happiest person alive’ is currently having the time of her life. In those two years since Anisimova came here for her Grand Slam main draw debut at 15, losing in the opening round after giving Kurumi Nara a proper fight, she has made staggering progress to the point that if she beats Halep on Wednesday, she is projected to join the world’s top 25.

Not that she’s too bothered about all the landmarks she is setting in her teens. “I have no idea about who did what at what age. People tell me and then I just forget after a second,” she shrugs. “I don’t really care about it too much. I just, like, I’m in the present and I want to do good and I hope for good results, but I don’t really think about how old I am.

“I’m just gonna go out there. I have no pressure. Hopefully I can bring my best game. We’ll see how it goes.”

So here’s everything you need to know about the prodigy taking tennis by storm…. 

American-born to Russian parents

Anisimova’s dad Konstanin and mum Olga moved to the United States in 1998 to try to find more tennis opportunities for their older daughter Maria, who was 10, but it was their younger sibling Amanda, born in Freehold, New Jersey, three years later who was to become the phenomenon, the first player born this century to make the last-eight of a major event.

Although her parents had no pro tennis background themselves, they taught themselves assiduously and it’s Konstantin who has been the constant coaching influence during her career, while also bringing in elite coaches like Nick Saviano, a former mentor of Sloane Stephens, to help mould his daughter’s rare talent. Her latest head coach is the Colombian Jaime Cortés.

Moving to the tennis hotbed of south Florida, Anisimova soon began to demonstrate her remarkable ability, reaching the final of the 2016 Roland-Garros junior tournament and winning the junior US Open event the following year.  

Sharapova her inspiration

Though her story is actually very different to that of Maria Sharapova, the starlet who made her name in the US, learning her trade in Florida, but who continued to represent Russia, Anisimova, who still speaks Russian with her own parents, has always felt a connection with the tale of the five-time Grand Slam champion.

“Maria is definitely the player I have looked up so much, she is an amazing athlete and a great person too,” Anisimova explained at the Australian Open. “I want to be the next player after her to win a Slam as a teenager.” 

A breakthrough year

After an excellent 2018 campaign when her progress was rudely interrupted for four months after she suffered a foot injury in Miami, the full flowering of her ability has unfolded this season, starting with a superb run to the last-16 of the Australian Open, during which she won her first Grand Slam singles and knocked out the world No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka.

After that, she took her WTA-tour title with a triumph on the clay at the Copa Colsanitas under her new Colombian coach Jaime Cortés. Remarkably, she had never won a tour-level match on clay before then.

Hungry, and a fast learner

What has been striking about Anisimova’s progress is how she has adapted to all surfaces, including clay, so quickly and has increasingly embraced a more versatile, complete game, developing, for instance, as a fine drop-shot and ever-improving volleyer.
After her win over Aliona Bolsova in the previous round, she revealed how she had adapted her already exceptional backhand for that game after watching the former world No.1 Halep’s patience with her own searing version of that shot. “Oh, my God, her backhand down the line is so good and she was taking her time,” said Anisimova, “and then I think I was mimicking it in my match.”

Her appetite to learn is obvious too. For while she has a great appreciation of her own game – “I have been mixing up my shots on clay,” she says – she also accepts that she has a lot of learning to do, especially in the serving department, and is eager to put in the hard yards. “I’m definitely not (a finished product). No player is ever a finished product. I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of building to do,” she says.

Born in the USA, but not Freehold’s most famous child

Anisimova is rising swiftly but she still has some way to go to match the fame of her home town’s most celebrated son, Bruce Springsteen.

Not that an ageing rock legend like ‘The Boss’ has ever quite infiltrated this particular millennial’s radar. “Wait…Bruce who?” she asked quizzically at the Australian Open, much to middle-aged journalists’ amusement, after being asked about the Freehold connection. “Is he, like, old?”

Like her idol BJK, she has forthright views

Anisimova certainly knows her own mind and is not afraid to speak it either. There’s a touch of Billie-Jean King’s own forthrightness about her, which is not surprising since the former US great’s work for women’s rights has made her the youngster’s idol.

Also, after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, Anisimova offered her own outspoken views on the gun control laws in the US. “I actually had a friend that goes to that school. It’s really close to me. It’s really sad what’s going on. I think that guns should be banned. That’s what my opinion is,” she said.

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