INDIAN WELLS, USA - Amanda Anisimova is ready for her close-up. The 16-year-old American wildcard became the youngest woman to make the Round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open since 2005 after earning the first Top 10 win of her career, snapping No.9 Petra Kvitova's 14-match win streak to win 6-2, 6-4 in the third round.
"I'm still in shock," Anisimova told reporters after the match. "She's the best player I have ever played, and it was the biggest court I have ever played on. So it was definitely nerve-wracking kind of, but I was enjoying it so much out there and I was playing my best. It was a good day."
So excited to have earned the wildcard for the main draw of Indian Wells pic.twitter.com/85RZsc8qOw
— Amanda Anisimova (@AnisimovaAmanda) March 2, 2018
Currently ranked No.149, Anisimova's big-stage breakthrough has been in the cards for the last year. Born in New Jersey and raised in America's tennis hotbed of Florida, Anisimova became the youngest woman to play the main draw at the French Open last year since Alizé Cornet in 2005. Months later, she rolled to the US Open girls title without losing a set and dropping just two games in the final.
PSA: she’s the real deal.
Unfortunately, saw this first hand a week ago 😂🤦🏻♀️. https://t.co/H4YrRa3qX3
— Nicole Gibbs (@Gibbsyyyy) March 11, 2018
Since then, Anisimova has slowly racked up quality wins over Top 200 players, including Hsieh Su-Wei, Nicole Gibbs, and Naomi Broady. Her win over No.94 Pauline Parmentier in the first round of Indian Wells was her first WTA main draw victory and third win over a Top 100 player. She followed it up by dominating No.23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-1. Then she tallied the biggest win of her career on the second-biggest tennis stadium in the world over the hottest player on tour and a two-time major champion in Kvitova. In each match she lost no more than six games.
"I was looking a little around when I was warming up because of all the TV screens," Anisimova said. "And I would see myself on the big screen, so I wasn't used to that. That was the first time. But I was trying to stay really focused.
"I was enjoying the moment, but at the same time, I was trying not to make myself nervous because of the huge crowd, and everything, and the big stage."
"I have no pressure going onto the court, and all I can think about is having fun, whatever happens. That's definitely an advantage."
— Jennifer Brady (@jennifurbrady95) March 11, 2018
Anisimova's powerful game has certainly turned heads. It's rare to find a young player who don't favor one side as a weapon. Asked to identify her favorite shot, Anisimova pointed to her serve. Take a poll of the press room and it's her versatile backhand that has impressed.
"A lot of people tell me I set it up really well," Anisimova said. "I just really feel when I'm on court I don't really have bad days with it.
"I don't really have a favorite shot. I think all of my shots are equally pretty good. My backhand is really good, too. I don't really prefer it over any other shot."
"I'm really aggressive, and I like to take the ball away. So I feel like opponents have a tough time, you know, managing my power sometimes. I think that's a big advantage I have.
"But last year in some of the big matches, like at French Open main draw, you know, I have had some matches where mentally I wasn't really there. So I had to really work on that last year. I feel like this is a good start for me."
Time and experience are on Anisimova's side as she plays her first full season at the professional level. At 16-years-old she is subject to the WTA's Age Elibility Rule, which allows her to play a maximum of 16 professional events before her 17th birthday on August 30th. Tennis is a family affair for the Anisimovas. Amanda's older sister Maria played tennis at the University of Pennsylvania and she's been coached by her father Konstantin her whole life. Outside of her family, she's counted Nick Saviano as a mentor and works with Max Fomine as a coach and hitting partner as well.
Anisimova is playing Indian Wells in the wake of the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. One of her friends was in school that day and the incident has been on her mind the last weeks.
"I actually had a friend that goes to that school," Anisimova said. "It's really close to me. It's really sad what's going on.
"I think that guns should be banned. That's what my opinion is. I posted that on Twitter. But you should have stricter laws on that for sure. And I don't think teachers should be having guns in school because I don't think that's a good idea. I think that we just have to take them out."
Back to the matter at hand, Anisimova will face another Top 10 player in the Round of 16, No.5 Karolina Pliskova.
"Playing against these top players, I mean, they are all so good and they are world class. They have had so much experience. So it's just so cool playing against them when I'm this young."