In the biggest upset — and one of the most clinical, impressive games we have seen throughout this year's French Open, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova defeated defending champion and third seed Simona Halep in straight sets to make her first ever Grand Slam semi-final.
A committed Anisimova was consistently coming into the net, rather than Halep, who committed some routine errors off her backhand and stayed near the baseline early on. Both held serve to begin with, but from the get-go, it was Anisimova who was in the driver's seat. She unleashed a litany of shots — bringing out effective cross-court forehands, coming into the net, and creating her points as she went. Seemingly unperturbed by the magnitude of the match she was playing, the unflappable American held to love against the reigning champ to take the lead, throwing all her weight and might as she moved with the athleticism reminiscent of Maria Sharapova in her heyday to make some great returns.
Simona Halep did try to fight back, showing some aggression early on in the first set and digging deep to hold serve as Anisimova engaged her in some exquisite rallies. Anisimova, who is currently ranked 51st in the world, put some excellent footwork on display as she moved around the court with consummate ease to take some easy holds of serve.
Up 4-2 in the first, Anisimova continued to play a flawless game, betraying none of the nervousness she may or may not have been feeling at this point. Halep, the significantly more experienced of the two, was already displaying her own nerves, sending routine shots long. By this time, the Romanian had already committed five forehand unforced errors. Getting increasingly hasty and aggressive, Halep went from being down 2-5 to losing it as Anisimova closed the set 6-2 in 27 minutes.
Winning six games in a row, Anisimova continued to apply the pressure in the second set to take an early break and a 2-0 lead, eventually going up 3-1 even as Halep created break points of her own. The set looked to be yet another one-sided one in the beginning with the American teen leading but she began to show some sign of nerves that would cause her to falter temporarily in the set. Halep would eventually break back to trail 3-4 to her rival and began getting more aggressive, coming into the net and pacing her points out. At a few points, Halep even looked as though she might force a decider, especially with Anisimova beginning to show her age, with the nervousness telling on her face. Anisimova committed a total of 18 unforced errors in the second set to her 14 winners, but managed to hold on to her resolve — and her shots — when they mattered most.
This win has made Anisimova the youngest American woman to make a Grand Slam semi-final since a then 17-year-old Venus Williams finished as the runner-up at the US Open in 1997. Anisimova is also the youngest American woman in the semi-finals at the French Open since Jennifer Capriati achieved that feat in 1990 at the age of 14.
The daughter of two Russian emigres to the USA, New Jersey-born Anisimova has already drawn comparisons in style to five-time Majors winner Maria Sharapova and already is being heralded as part of the future of American tennis. She is not the only teen in the semi-finals either, with Czech Marketa Vondrousova lining up a blockbuster contest against the in-form British No 1, Johanna Konta.
Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion and former World No 1, described Anisimova's performance as a star being born. For Halep, that star went supernova today, destroying her hopes of a fourth final and a title defence at Roland Garros.
Anisimova will now take on another experienced face — the tennis player-cricketer Ashleigh Barty. Her Australian rival is significantly more experienced as Grand Slams go — she has made the finals in the doubles at every single Major, winning the US Open title last year with American CoCo Vandeweghe.
Barty may well be the more experienced in terms of the world sporting stage but if the American teen's performance against a three-time finalist is anything to go by, nerves don't get to her for very long.
Giddy with happiness and smiling at an appreciative audience as she was interviewed by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, Anisimova already has the makings of a champion — and she could be one as soon as next week if she continues to hold her own.
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2019 23:01:13 IST