INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Amanda Anisimova certainly knows how to make an entrance. Having never before won a match at the WTA level before this week, the 16-year-old picked up two victories to reach the third round—where she then put an emphatic end to world No. 9 Petra Kvitova's 14-match win streak. In just over an hour, Anisimova won, 6-2, 6-4 and became one of BNP Paribas Open's biggest stories.
"I’m shaking right now," Anisimova said after the shocking result. "This is the biggest stage I've ever played on against the strongest person I've ever played in a tournament. It's just crazy."
Anisimova won her first-ever WTA main-draw match at last week in Indian Wells in straight sets against Pauline Parmentier. Faced with a stiffer challenge in her next match against No. 23-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Anisimova didn’t blink, winning again in straights. On Sunday, instead of being fazed by her first Top 10-opponent, the world No. 149 brushed Kvitova off with remarkable confidence.
“She’s an amazing player I’m pretty sure she was on a 14-match streak so she was playing really well,” Anisimova said. “I was just trying to stay focused but a the same time I was thinking, Oh my god.”
Despite her young age, the teenager has been building her resume for some time. She was ranked as high as No. 2 in juniors, reaching the 2016 French Open final and winning the junior US Open the following year. She won her first, and so far only, ITF Pro Circuit title at a $60,000 in Sacramento last year as a 15-year-old. To get a spot in the Indian Wells draw, she had to earn it during the Oracle Challenger Series.
Kvitova, meanwhile, has experience in surplus. The 28-year-old has two Wimbledon titles to her name, has regularly been inside the Top 5 and carried a two-title winning streak (St. Petersburg and Doha) into Indian Wells. To say she was the overwhelming favorite would still be an understatement.
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Anisimova didn’t seem too preoccupied with the lopsided statistical disparity, racing ahead to a swift, 6-2 first-set win. Kvitova found her footing in the second set, but only until 3-3. From there, it was all Anisimova, with lightning sharp first-strikes on both her serves and returns.
"I'm really aggressive, and I like to take the ball away. So I feel like opponents have a tough time managing my power sometimes," Anisimova said. "I think that's a big advantage I have."
Kvitova didn't put up a poor performance, but lacked her authoritative shot-making—and the consistency that helped string together an unbeaten run since the Australian Open. She hit just 10 winners and racked up 29 unforced errors. Anisimova stood her ground and took her chances when she had them, performing at a level well beyond her years.
"I was looking a little around when I was warming up because of all the TV screens. And I would see myself on the big screen, so I wasn't use to that," Anisimova said. "That was the first time. But I was trying to stay really focused."
Despite the stunning loss, Kvitova should take away the positives of her exceptional stretch of play. She's back in full health, miles away from where she was this time last year. The victim of a home invasion and knife attack that required surgery on her hand, Kvitova's spirits were lifted when the BNP Paribas Open put up a Get Well Petra billboard on the grounds for fans to sign and leave their best wishes.
With this result, the tennis world should celebrate both Kvitova's healthy return, and the birth of a new star. Anisimova is the youngest player to reach the fourth round of Indian Wells since 2005.
The American is projected to rise to a career-high No. 130, and next plays the winner of Shaui Zhang and Karolina Pliskova. Anisimova's entrance has been so good that it seems she might not know how to exit.
"I have no pressure going onto the court, and all I can think about is having fun, whatever happens," Anisimova said. "That's definitely an advantage."
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