DOHA, Qatar - American teenager Amanda Anisimova earned her biggest win of the new season at the Qatar Total Open, dispatching No.5 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 6-3 to book her spot in the third round.
"I think the most important thing was just staying focused and clearing my head, just not putting too much pressure on myself and just trying to enjoy," she explained after the match. "So I'm really happy to be back and kind of playing my own tennis again."
Anisimova last beat a Top 10 player at Roland Garros, where she dethroned defending champion Simona Halep en route to her first Grand Slam semifinal, and showed flashes of that brilliance in her Doha debut on Monday, securing victory after 64 minutes on Centre Court.
"Every opponent here is a tough player, but when I go out to play a top 10 player I know I just have to be focused for every point because they can turn the match around at any time, so I just have to really stay zoned into the match."
Svitolina ended 2019 on a high note, reaching back-to-back Grand Slam semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open, and came within one match of defending her WTA Finals crown in Shenzhen - falling to World No.1 Ashleigh Barty. Her 2020 has seen fewer of those highs and just one quarterfinal appearance at the GSB Thailand Open presented by E@ that followed a third round Australian Open exit to eventual runner-up Garbiñe Muguruza.
Fresh off a win over rising Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round, the 18-year-old Anisimova saved two break points in the third game of the opening set to turn the tables on Svitolina, a semifinalist at this event last year. Nabbing the only break of the set, Anisimova held on to clinch the set on her second opportunity.
The second set moved in similar fashion as the Ukrainian earned another break chance on the Anisimova serve, only to find herself on the back foot as the World No.29 took a 0-40 lead two games later. While Svitolina battled back to deuce, Anisimova was undeterred, breaking serve and moving ahead 5-3.
Looking to put the pressure back on her young opponent, the former World No.3 had two game points as she served to stay in the match. A mix of inconsistency on top of Anisimova's relentless aggression ultimately proved her undoing as it was the American who turned one last game around to move over the finish line.
In all, she struck an impressive 27 winners to 21 unforced errors and saved all three break points faced on her own serve while converting three of six opportunities on the Svitolina serve.
"I love playing here. I love this stadium and the crowd is great. I'm so glad I get to see everyone again in the next round."
Up next for Anisimova will the winner of a similar youth-experience battle between former World No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova and Polish teenager Iga Swiatek. Swiatek came through her first round clash with Donna Vekic earlier in the day, while Kuznetsova made quick work of Turkish wildcard Cagla Buyukakcay on Sunday.
"It is my first time here in the Middle East, it's really beautiful and I really love the hotel we're staying at. So, hopefully I can have a little bit of a beach day tomorrow, just, yeah, it's really nice here, so I'm just enjoying the week."