The 2017 season has welcomed plenty of fresh faces to the WTA tour, few more impressive than a fearless trio of 2016’s junior standouts, who’ve continued narrowing the gap between the teen sensations and veterans currently ruling the circuit.
“There are a lot of good juniors right now and they’ve been playing really well,” Amanda Anisimova told WTA Insider shortly after the 15-year-old clinched the USTA’s French Open wildcard. “I’m starting to see them beating really good pros and that really inspires me.
Dayana Yastremska was the first to make noise when she reached the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup quarterfinals on her senior main draw debut, while Anastasia Potapova, who beat the young Ukrainian to win the junior Wimbledon title last summer, reached a semifinal at a 100K ITF Challenger in Trnava.
“When I see someone of a similar age it tells me I can be just as good as them. So I guess I like keeping track of their results.”
Most impressive of all has been Anisimova; born to Russian parents and raised in Florida, she became the first American in over a decade to reach the French Open junior final - beating Potapova en route.
“I have a lot confidence from last year and I really like the courts and everything. The tournament was great so I can’t wait for it.”
Anisimova is back at her favorite tournament one year later, on a similar stage but playing for vastly different stakes - not that you’d know if you heard the coolly confident teenager explain it.
“It is definitely going to be a little bit different. I think the court situation is going to be better, since last year it was kind of crazy with the weather and everything.
“But I don’t think it’s going to be too different.”
Making her WTA main draw debut at the Miami Open, she achieved back-to-back runner-up finishes at ITF Challenger tournaments in Indian Harbour Beach and Dothan. The latter assured guaranteed a Grand Slam main draw debut, and the youngest to play for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen since Alizé Cornet in 2005.
“For that last week I was trying to not think about it,” she said of a tight race that included the likes of Victoria Duval and Stanford grad Kristie Ahn. “I didn’t want to be upset with the result.
“I was at my house and my mom came over to my room and we were all super excited. It was a shock, as well, knowing I’d get to play Roland Garros at such a young age.”
Anisimova has always been a bit ahead of schedule, playing with tennis balls as a baby and picking up the game at just two years old, inspired by older sister, Maria.
“My sister ended up playing for UPenn at college. So when I was little she was playing tennis. I always saw her playing, and I wanted to do it too. That’s how I got into it and my parents got into it too.”
Her parents followed their children into the game, and father Konstantin has been her longtime coach, though Anisimova also works with hitting partner Max Fomine and Henner Nehles from the USTA, with help from famed coach Nick Saviano.
Her team may be large, but the teenager has long loved the individual nature of her sport.
“In tennis, you don’t have to depend on anyone. I did gymnastics as a kid, and I liked that too, because I only had to depend on myself.
“It’s not like it’s all about me, but at the end of the day, if I won or lost, I knew what I had to improve, and couldn’t rely on a team.”
That sort of acerbic analysis is undeniably apropos from the home-schooled Anisimova, who spends her free time reading books and watching Youtube videos about science and chemistry - all with an eye on one day attending medical school.
“I’ve always been curious about it, and I think it’s pretty cool,” she admits, briefly slipping into a more age-appropriate lexicon.
Anisimova will begin her quest for Grand Slam glory on Sunday, taking on World No.94 Kurumi Nara, with a potential second round encounter with fellow American and five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams.
“This will be my first main draw match at a major, I’m very excited and I can’t wait to play already!”
More from Anisimova…
Most frequently used app: Instagram. My handle is just my name, amandaanisimova. I just like looking through what all my friends are doing, and seeing all their pictures. I don’t really spend that much time on my phone anymore, though. I’m trying to limit that.
Favorite song: "Unforgettable" by French Montana.
Favorite way to spend time with friends: Going to the beach.
Favorite tennis players: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Last movie she saw: Titanic.
Last concert she went to: Rolling Loud; it’s a music festival in Miami.
Favorite shot: My serve.
Favorite tournament: French Open.