By the end of this week, we will have a new entrant into the elite club of Grand Slam winners and she might only be 17 years old. The American teen sensation, Amanda Anisimova has blasted her way through to the semifinals of the French Open, beating the defending champion Simona Halep 6-2 6-4 in a surprisingly one-sided affair.
If you think Anisimova has had it easy so far in her short career, you’re wrong. Amanda Anisimova is no stranger to adversity. She endured a right foot injury last year at the Miami Masters and was forced out of the tour for four months. Thursday, she encountered adversity of a different kind which was much more mental in nature.
Anisimova was the underdog coming into the match, but she proved that wrong in just 68 minutes. A deeper dive into this stellar performance is definitely warranted.
Anisimova crushes Halep in first set
Anisimova couldn’t have asked for a better first set. Fighting off early match jitters, she saved the solitary break point she would concede in the set. Simona Halep was by no means playing poorly; she was striking the ball well and was looking to dictate points from the baseline. The problem was it played right into the American’s gameplay.
Amanda’s biggest strength which was evident from this match was that she’s equally capable of absorbing pace as she can produce it. Whatever Halep threw at Anisimova, she had all the answers. The pressure was telling on Halep as she double-faulted at 2-3 15-30 to give the American two break points. Anisimova would require just the one never looking back from thereon. As the first set neared its close, it was Anisimova who was on the front-foot making Halep scamper for every point with great angular shots and the drop shot was working like a dream.
Tighter second set
Simona Halep was never going to bow out without a fight. Even after she lost the first set 6-2 and trailing 1-3 in the second, one could sense a fightback was just around the corner. What followed was a lung buster of a game which proved pivotal in the context of the match.
Halep knew the pattern of play so far would lead to sure defeat. She couldn’t outhit the American; Halep had to try something else and that’s when she resorted to high loopy balls trying to push the American back. Anisimova kept at it from the baseline but it drew more errors from her. The American saved the first break point with a courageous second serve down the middle and the second with a wide first serve that just caught the line. Anisimova was fighting toe-to-toe with the Romanian and the game could have gone either way. In the end, Anisimova took it with a forehand crosscourt on the run, signaling not only she could outhit the Romanian but that she can outfight her too.
The American would concede her advantage in the next service game, but no doubt having the belief that even if it went all the way she stood a chance. Halep was defending well to keep her in the match but the American was relentless from both wings. At 4-5 30-30, Halep double-faulted again. Probably the expectations combined with the sheer pressure exerted by Anisimova was getting too much for her. A clean backhand down the line winner sealed the deal for the 17-year-old.
There are a lot of things to like about how Anisimova plays her tennis. Standing at 5’11”, her serve is one of her biggest weapons clocking great speeds. Her forehand and backhand are devastating with the ability to punch through anyone. She hasn’t let the occasion get to her so far and that mental fortitude will hold her in good stead when she takes on Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals. Regardless of how far Anisimova goes at this year’s Roland Garros, the future of American tennis sure looks bright.