BOGOTA, Colombia - Amanda Anisimova is usually a serene figure in post-match press conferences, staring straight ahead, piercing eyes seemingly focused on larger goals even as the American quickly rises up the rankings.
But after a long week at the Claro Open Colsanitas, the American teenager, could hardly contain the excitement of winning her first WTA title.
"It’s a huge deal," she chuckled over the phone after a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Astra Sharma. "I think this was a pretty big goal because I overcame so many challenges this week. I’m really happy and proud of myself for how I got through them, and winning my first WTA title means so much.
"I definitely got a lot of confidence from it, and hopefully it will bring me more experience ahead of the clay court season this year."
Coached by Colombian Jamie Cortes, Anisimova rallied from a set and a break down to defeat a surging Sharma, who came within one win over making her Top 100 debut.
"I’d only heard about her for the first time at the start of this year. When I was in the locker room in Australia, I was watching her and was really impressed with her results there."
As the American stormed into the Australian Open second week with a stunning win over Aryna Sabalenka, Sharma won her maiden major main draw match; the Vanderbilt graduate continued to impress in Bogota, scoring back-to-back wins over established clay courters like Sara Errani and Lara Arruabarrena, and came within five points of victory in the second set, holding a break point on Anisimova's serve in a decisive ninth game.
"I knew she was a really good player and that today would be a really tough match. I knew a little bit about how she plays, but not much, and I was just focusing on myself, like I do in every match."
She made up for lost time with a runner-up finish - and Top 100 debut - at the Hana-cupid Japan Women's Open last fall, though she admitted the memory of that near-miss at a first title was on her mind against Sharma.
"I was thinking about how this was my second final, and that made me nervous, especially in the second set. I just really wanted to win this match, so I was trying to calm myself and get rid of those nerves."
Anisimova ultimately battled through four three-setters to take the title, including one against hometown favorite and former fellow junior competitor Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.
"I don’t think I’ve ever played so many three-set matches in one week, and in so many of them, I was down a set. That really helped my mental strength, and so I’m feeling really good mentally after getting through all these matches.
"I’ve played a lot on clay throughout my junior career, and a lot in South America, as well. I was feeling very confident, even if I wasn’t able to play the clay season last year because of my injury. I’m really excited to play on clay again because it’s my favorite surface. This is a huge boost for Europe."
Planning to play a strong slate of tournaments starting at the Mutua Madrid Open and ending at Roland Garros, Anisimova will be a different player from the 15-year-old who made her Grand Slam main draw debut on the terre battue two years ago.
"I’m just getting started, and this was a great opportunity, so I’m really happy that I’m healthy this year. I’m really looking forward to Paris."