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At French Open, Amanda Anisimova reminds the tennis world who she is

Amanda Anisimova defeated Naomi Osaka in the French Open first round, months after ousting her from the Australian Open. (Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Amanda Anisimova, at just 20 years old, has already become well acquainted with the highs and lows of tennis.

This year, she’s been riding one of the highs, defeating four players ranked in the top 20 to bring her career total of top-20 victories to 10. The run started with her upset of then-No. 14 Noami Osaka at the Australian Open, where she advanced to the fourth round before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty. At the Madrid Open, she took down No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka (her second career top-10 win over the Belarusian star) and No. 17 Victoria Azarenka.

Then on Monday, Anisimova again ousted Osaka from a Grand Slam in the first round of the French Open. The win was not technically an upset since Anisimova is currently ranked 10 spots higher than No. 38 Osaka, but it garnered national attention nonetheless.

“It’s always enjoyable to accept the challenge, even when it’s a tough match, and push yourself and see how far you can go,” Anisimova said after the win. “I enjoy these matches, even though they’re very tough … especially when you get to win them.”

Anisimova’s breakout moment came in 2019 when she was just 17. At the French Open, the New Jersey native stunned defending champion Simona Halep 6-4, 6-2 to reach the semifinals. She called her performance the “best tennis of my life.”

“I don’t know how, and I don’t know how I did it, but it just happened,” she said at the time. “I mean, it’s crazy. I really can’t believe the result today. And getting the opportunity to play against Simona, that’s amazing, but how it ended is even crazier to me.”

That same year, she won her first WTA title at the Copa Colsanitas and earned a career-high No. 21 world ranking.

Since then, however, Anisimova has had to fight to maintain her form and rank.

“At the time, I didn’t even really realize it,” Anisimova said in an interview with WTA in 2021. “It just happened, and I was really young. It’s just kind of grown on me over the last couple of years.

“It wasn’t probably as crazy as everyone thought it was to me. I thought it was kind of normal, because it just happened over the course of two weeks. Getting the confidence over the next couple of years kind of went with that achievement.”

At the height of Anisimova’s rise in tennis, tragedy struck. Her father and longtime coach, Konstantin, died of a heart attack in August 2019 at the age of 52. She withdrew from the U.S. Open that year and returned to competition briefly in September before cutting her season short.

“The only thing that has helped me is just playing tennis and being on the court,” she told the New York Times in January 2020. “That’s what makes me happy, and I know it would make him happy, so that’s the way it is.”

Anisimova went 11-9 in 2020, dealing with multiple injuries as she tried to rediscover her form from the year prior. She had some success in 2021 — including a quarterfinal appearance at the Emilia-Romagna Open — but finished the year 14-15 and fell out of the top 75.

Entering this season ranked No. 78 in the world, Anisimova has looked much like her old self. In her very first tournament of 2022, the Melbourne Summer Set 2, she made her first finals appearance since 2019 and won her second career WTA title. Since then, she’s been on a tear — particularly on clay, where she is 10-3 this season — and has soared to a No. 28 ranking, just seven shy of her career high.

One of the best players on clay, Anisimova looks poised for another deep run this month at the French Open, where the women’s field continues to open up with each early-round upset. After dismantling Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4 in the first round, she defeated Donna Vekic in the second round on Wednesday, 6-4, 6-1.

Following her win over Osaka, Anisimova called the anticipation in the lead-up to the match “difficult.”

“I was trying not to think about it too much, but going into the match, I did feel the stress and the nerves a bit because it is a very tough first round,” she said. “I’m just happy with how I was able to manage it and get through it.”

In just the first few years of her professional career, Anisimova has faced tremendous adversity. Already in 2022, it’s looking like she’s come out stronger for it on the other side, ready to realize the potential of her talents.

“I just have a lot of confidence right now with all the tournaments that I have played so far, so I’m just happy,” she said.

Emma Hruby is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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