A young pro football player might well endure more physical pain than a tennis player, but when it comes to the matter of raw combat, the contrast in the educational process is vivid. No matter how great a football prospect is, they’re often only gradually exposed to the rigors of heavy-duty competition. Consider that Tom Brady only played one game his rookie season. As an apprentice behind Drew Bledsoe, Brady was also mentored by the entire New England Patriots squad and a vast coaching staff.

It’s different in tennis. Just ask Katrina Scott, a promising 17-year-old from Los Angeles, who got into the BNP Paribas Open this year as a wild card. Currently ranked 439 in the world, Scott in 2019 helped lead the U.S. team to victory at the Junior Federation Cup – an event also won in recent years by such current pros as Coco Gauff and Scott’s opponent this evening, Amanda Anisimova. Back at the 2020 US Open, Scott had extended Anisimova to three sets.

Were tennis a team sport, the more experienced Anisimova might well be enlisted by a coach such as USTA head of women’s tennis Kathy Rinaldi to aid Scott’s development, acquainting the young prodigy with the ins and outs of life as a pro. In a way, tonight Anisimova indeed showed Scott the ropes.

A major part of showing a tennis player the ropes is also showing them the door. In 52 rapid-fire minutes, Anisimova easily beat Scott, 6-1, 6-1. Anisimova won a sparkling 26 of 29 points on her first serve and never faced a break point. She also won 71 percent of the points on Scott’s second serve, far more than the 50 percent mark that’s usually a sign of a reasonable return effort. Said Anisimova, “I had to be the aggressive one and really go for my shots and I think I managed that well and stayed consistent.”

It was just over three years ago, here at Indian Wells, that Anisimova made her first big splash. In the desert, she advanced to the round of 16, notching big wins over world #23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. The next year was even better, Anisimova at Roland Garros upsetting defending champion Simona Halep and going on to reach the semis. Ranked 92 at the start of 2019, by year’s end Anisimova had soared to 21.

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In a 52 rapid-fire minutes, Anisimova easily beat Scott, 6-1, 6-1.

In a 52 rapid-fire minutes, Anisimova easily beat Scott, 6-1, 6-1.  

Since then, though, there have been tough times, from the death of her father on the eve of the 2019 US Open to assorted injuries. Anisimova is currently ranked 81. But as the world saw during Anisimova’s time of ascent, her laser-sharp groundstrokes – as fine a backhand as any in the sport – can contend with anyone. Only last month, Anisimova held a match point versus Karolina Pliskova at the US Open. She’s also excited to compete at Indian Wells. Asked why, Anisimova said, “It’s kind of a secret: The courts are really slow...it suits my game well.”

Anisimova next plays Camila Giorgi, the longstanding power player supreme who this past summer showed signs of tactical improvement. This will be the first time these two have met. In this case, though, the 29-year-old Giorgi is the veteran. After all, as much savvy as Anisimova showed tonight, as much as she’s been through these last three years, she’s still just 20 years old.