By Jane Voigt
March 11, 2018 — Amanda Anisimova arrived on the big stage this afternoon, taking a well-deserved bow of relief after realizing she’d won the biggest match of her young career against two-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova today.
“It feels so crazy. I’m shaking right now,” she said, immediately following her win, 6-2, 6-4. “This is the biggest stage I’ve ever played on against the strongest player I’ver ever faced.”
The 16-year-old Anisimova wasn’t kidding. Just six months ago, she’d won the Junior Girls Singles Championship at the U.S. Open, beating another teen of 13. Anisimova was awarded one of eight wildcards to the main draw in Indian Wells after finishing second at the 125K Oracle Challenger Series. This is only her third tournament as a professional.
“It’s so exciting,” she told Jon Wertheim on Tennis Channel. “I was like I was gonna have fun out there. I do get a big nervous on the changeovers. But I liked how I was staying calm. You have to be tough.”
Talk about tough. Anisimova was the better player today, although Kvitova, on a 14-match winning streak, didn’t play her best. With that said, the teen had to remain squarely on her side of the court and not get distracted. At 5-3 in the second, she served for the match and a place in the fourth round of a WTA Premier Mandatory event, which is big stuff no matter age, fortune or career highlights. Unfortunately, Kvitova held her off and broke. But Anisimova stepped up and pulled off the win, as Kvitova served. All players get a touch nervous closing out matches, so to watch this young woman control herself enough to put the missed opportunity behind was encouraging.
“[It’s a] major difference,” she told Wertheim, explaining the move from junior to professional. “Obviously it’s a complete change.”
WTA rules state that Anisimova can only play 16 tournaments a year because of her age. The rule is supposed to protect the health of younger players. During the past 13 months, she’s risen over 600 spots in the ranking to her current No. 149.
“I put myself first,” she said, when asked how she prepares to play women she’s never encountered. “I just trust my game so much. But I search for them online.”
Anisimova’s has mature ground strokes, which penetrated this slow, gritty court. Keeping the ball deep on Kvitova today was one key to her upset. Anisimova’s serve is rock solid, as well. It’s an uncomplicated motion she repeated like clockwork. She won 70% on first serves and 53% on second serves, to Kvitova’s 63% and 38% respectively.
Anisimova was born in New Jersey and raised in Florida by her Russian parents who emigrated to the United States. She began playing with tennis balls as a baby as she watched her older sister, Maria. “That’s how I got into it and my parents got into it, too,” she told the WTA Insider a year ago. Her father Konstantin is her coach.
Anisimova’s chances of becoming a top contender are good, right now. With so many threads to manage, we’ll have to wait and watch. However her role model is Billie Jean King. Basics are the key to a much-needed foundation.
Anisimova is the youngest woman player to advance to the fourth round at Indian Wells since 2005. She will play Katarina Pliskova (No. 5) next.