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.”
What an upset! 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova knocked off defending women's champ Simona Halep for a spot in the semifinals at Roland Garros. pic.twitter.com/FOxvagrGvW— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 6, 2019
What an upset! 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova knocked off defending women's champ Simona Halep for a spot in the semifinals at Roland Garros. pic.twitter.com/FOxvagrGvW
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.