The 2018 year-end rankings features two 17-year-olds rounding out the Top 100. Not far behind Moscow River Cup runner-up Anastasia Potapova is former junior rival and Hana-Cupid Japan Women’s Tennis Open finalist Amanda Anisimova.
In one week, the then-16-year-old American scored her first WTA main draw win, her first Top 20 victory, and her first Top 10 upset en route to the Round of 16 of the BNP Paribas Open, announcing herself to an enthusiastic tennis audience and kicking off a string of strong results from a 2001 generation that also includes Moscow River Cup champion Olga Danilovic.
“It’s definitely motivating,” the American admitted. “You know, it’s great that all of these young players are getting so much better, and there are a lot of new players on the rise. Definitely when I see other players my age doing well, it motivates me, and tells me that I can be just as good as they can.”
Anisimova spoke with wtatennis.com about overcoming a subsequent foot injury in Miami, her ever-improving mental game, and her goals for 2019.
1. Her Indian Wells breakthrough was hard to enjoy after a foot injury halted her progress.
A strong run on hardcourts resulted culminated in an auspicious start to the Sunshine Swing. Wins over Pauline Parmentier and No.23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova booked a Stadium Court clash with two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who had won her last 14 matches.
Anisimova’s emphatic win over the former World No.2 stood her in good stead for a strong season, but a foot injury canceled an meeting with another two-time Grand Slam champion, Garbiñe Muguruza, at the Miami Open, and ultimately sidelined her for four months.
“It was just really frustrating,” she said in a phone interview earlier this fall. “I had a really tough pre-season last year, and then I was just playing really well, and I had a really good run, so starting all over again, it was really hard.”
2. The comeback process helped Anisimova rediscover her passion for tennis.
Her injury interrupted what had hitherto been a steady rise from juniors, where she reached the 2016 Roland Garros final and captured the 2017 US Open girl’s singles title. Confident on clay, she clinched the USTA wildcard for last year’s French Open, narrowly losing to Kurumi Nara in three sets.
Born to Russian parents and coached by father Konstantin, Anisimova found herself forced to start over, but doesn’t regret the time spent off tour.
“After a couple weeks, I was off the crutches and back on the court with my boot. I was just going through the motions, even though I was just standing in one place, just trying not forget a little bit how to play! When I came back, everything was going pretty quickly. I was still working out and everything, so my comeback was pretty quick, and I think that had to do with me being pretty active when I couldn’t play.
“It definitely mentally challenged me, so I think it made me stronger in a lot of ways, and now it’s just building back to the basics, making myself as strong as I can be again, maybe even better than I was.”
3. Anisimova’s summer return proved her proudest moment of 2018.
The teenager jumped back onto the WTA merry-go-round where she’d jumped off, playing the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose as the US summer hardcourt swing was about to begin.
As a qualifier, she scored a second win over Wang Qiang and pushed eventual champion Mihaela Buzarnescu to three sets, a moment that sticks most strongly in Anisimova’s mind.
“I was just playing really well in that tournament, especially after an injury. I was just really happy with myself, with all the challenges that I overcame, and then going out there and playing so soon, I think I did really well, and then building all the blocks after that.”
She followed that up with back-to-back main draw wins at the Western & Southern Open, and the best was yet to come after the US Open.
4. Her first WTA final in Hiroshima clinched her Top 100 debut.
“That was definitely a great week, I was really excited. I was just gonna go out there and have fun. It was my first time in Asia, and I surprised myself, I didn’t really expect to get to the final.
“When I came back, I was just focusing on having fun, and just enjoying every single second. There’s nothing better than when you’re healthy and you’re playing. I was doing so well, I didn’t even realize that I was about to make the Top 100, but then I did, so I was just really happy with it.”
Though she fell to experienced veteran Hsieh Su-Wei, the 17-year-old moved up nearly 40 spots in the rankings - going as high as No.92 in October - before finishing the season at No.95.
5. Anisimova credits an improved mental strength with her rapid rise.
Standing at just under six feet tall, the American has by far the most balanced game of her generation, striking each shot with textbook technique and effortless power. Able to hit just about every shot, Anisimova experienced a heightened court awareness in 2018, feeling more confident in her shot selection as the season progressed.
“I think I’m using my mind more when I play. I’m playing smarter, and having longer points. I feel like I would rush more a couple years ago, and now I really take my time and go for my shots when I really want to.”
On the other side of a tough injury, she also credits a better perspective with helping achieve success.
“To me, having fun on court means being loose, you know, not focusing on the result, because I used to do that, I used to focus on winning and losing. So, I think just learning how to forget about that, and just being in the moment.”
Aiming for stronger results at the major tournaments, Anisimova will hit the ground running at the ASB Classic in Auckland, where she is currently entered in qualifying.