Teenage sensation Amanda Anisimova overpowered defending French Open champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals on Thursday, claiming a 6-2, 6-4 victory over the third seed. Anisimova is bidding to become the first American woman other than three-time champion Serena Williams to win the Roland Garros title since Jennifer Capriati in 2001.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve been working so hard but I didn’t think it would pay off like this,” Anisimova told Marion Bartoli on-court afterwards. “It’s honestly anything more than I could have asked for.
“Going out today, I know I’ve been playing well every single day. I knew if I wanted to win today, I had to do something different because this wasn’t going to be an easy match to win. I’m really happy with my performance because this is one of the best matches I’ve played.”
Anisimova, a junior French Open finalist three years ago, continues the best major run for a player born in the 2000s and is seeking her second WTA title, having triumphed earlier this season on clay in Bogota. The 17-year-old is the youngest American woman to reach a major semifinal since Venus Williams at the 1997 US Open and is yet to drop a set in Paris. Anisimova will take on eighth seed Ashleigh Barty for a place in Saturday’s championship match. Barty defeated Madison Keys, 6-3, 7-5.
Both players experienced little resistance on serve in the beginning stages. Anisimova was in sync on her backhand wing, and her constant baseline pressure drew a double fault from Halep in the sixth game to set up the first break point. The American converted, and after wiping away Halep’s chance to get back on serve in the following game, Anisimova broke again to take the set in 27 minutes. On three occasions she was successful with her backhand drop shot, backhand cross-court combination.
Three consecutive forehand winners enabled Anisimova to gain an early break in the second set. Halep ended her seven-game losing streak in the fourth game and hung around, eventually leveling the set at 4-4 on her sixth break point opportunity. She had a chance to break for her first lead, but as she did throughout the match, Anisimova delivered deep, aggressive second serves to escape. Appropriately, a backhand up the line winner clinched victory in 68 minutes.
"She's pushing the ball really deep. Sometimes you cannot go from there because the ball doesn't bounce," said Halep. "She puts pressure on [your] game. And even if she doesn't hit strong with a lot of power, she hits it very long, with good depth, and it's tough to return the balls."