Arthur Kapetanakis | June 6, 2019
Teenage dreams are playing out in Paris, as 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova took out defending champion Simona Halep to join 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in the Roland Garros semifinals. The unseeded upstarts, who have combined to win all 20 sets they've played on the French red clay, could yet meet in Saturday's women's singles final.
After a Wednesday washout forced Anisimova to wait an extra day for the biggest match of her young career, the American made the most of her Court Philippe-Chatrier debut on Thursday, taking out the No. 3-seeded Halep, 6-2, 6-4, in the quarters.
Anisimova stormed out of the gate, taking nine of the match's first 11 games to open up a 6-2, 3-0 lead, appearing at ease on the center-court stage.
"I didnt look nervous... because I wasn't," she said of her strong start. ADVERTISEMENT But a fierce Halep comeback—albeit one Anisimova was fully expecting—changed that.
From 4-1, Halep reeled off three straight games (including her lone break of the match) to level the set and put a self-admitted scare into her youthful opponent.
But despite the late nerves that Anisimova described in her post-match presser, she was able to rise to the moment and win the last two games, closing out the match with her 25th winner, on her first match point. She sealed it with a booming down-the-line backhand, a shot she specifically mentioned in previewing the quarterfinal showdown.
Australian Ashleigh Barty, the No. 8 seed who will also be playing her first Slam semifinal, awaits on Friday. The Czech Vondrousova will take on Great Britain's Johanna Konta, seeded 26th, in the opposite semi.
Here's more, in her own words, from the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Venus Williams at the 1997 US Open. Speaking to the press, Anisimova discussed her nerves (and lack thereof), the youth movement she and Vondrousova are now headlining and whether she thinks she can win the tournament.
Q. You were up 3-0 in the second. What was going through your mind as Simona started to mount a comeback?
Amanda Anisimova: Yeah, every time I had a lead and I was winning, I knew I wasn't actually winning. I mean, I knew she could come back at any moment, so I wasn't thinking about winning or not. I was just thinking about playing each point and trying to get ahead.
Yeah, as it was getting closer, it was very tough. You know, nerves were kicking in a bit. But I was able to make a couple of winners and necessary points and just play the tennis that I wanted to play today.
Q. You said towards the end the nerves were kicking in, but in the beginning you didn't seem, from the outside, anyway, you didn't seem very nervous playing Simona Halep on center court. What do you put that down to? How come you're able to approach that match seemingly without being nervous?
Amanda Anisimova: Yeah, I mean, I didn't look nervous... because I wasn't. I was just super excited, and I was really happy with the opportunity. I felt really good today, like, healthy, because early in the rounds I didn't really feel good. Playing tennis when you feel good is just really good. That's why I was really happy today to get to play healthy.
I mean, yeah, I was just going out to—I was very excited. And to have this opportunity, I mean, it's just amazing. That's why I was playing really well in the first set. But in the second set I was, like, 'Oh, I have to do it again.' (Smiling.)
Q. I asked Simona to describe this new generation, younger women's tennis players. She said you girls, like yourself and Vondrousova, you have the courage that they didn't have when they were 17 and 18, you have the aggressivity they didn't have. Where does this come from? You just grow like that? Are there any methods? She was really shy, Simona, when she was 17 or 18.
Amanda Anisimova: I don't really know. I mean, I obviously respect every opponent I play. Doesn't matter what ranking they are.
Yeah, I was going out there, and I'm playing Halep. She won last year. Obviously, I respect her a lot. But I know I'm capable of doing a lot, and I know I can play very well.
I mean, I never doubt my abilities. Today that showed that.
Q. Simona Halep told us that you could win the tournament. Do you agree with her?
Amanda Anisimova: I'm not really thinking about that. I'm just happy with today, and I'm really looking forward to my next match. I'm just letting it all just kick in a little bit. I'm just really happy with everything that's been happening. I don't try to think about the future.
Q. You're into the semifinals. You haven't dropped a set. You just beat the reigning champion. Has this process or this tournament felt easier than you might expect in terms of making your first major semifinal? Are you surprised at all that you have been able to do this over the fortnight?
Amanda Anisimova: Actually, when I was playing in Australia, I was thinking about, like, winning it (smiling). It seems like such a hard thing to do. I didn't really think that I could. I mean, it just seemed, like, very difficult. And even getting past Petra [Kvitova], she just killed me in that match [in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open].
Yeah, in this tournament, I feel a lot more confident and feeling my game a bit better than I did there.