Amanda Anisimova: The Latest American Teenage Prodigy To Shine At The French Open - UBITENNIS
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Amanda Anisimova: The Latest American Teenage Prodigy To Shine At The French Open

The youngest player in the WTA top 100 is currently on track to rise to the top of the game.

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Amanda Anisimova - Roland Garros 2019 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

During the 2017 French Open a 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova made her grand slam debut. She managed to book a place in the draw after claiming the USTA’s wildcard thanks to an impressive display on the ITF tour. Unfortunately for her, she crashed out in the first round in three sets to Kurumi Nara.

 

Two years on from that defeat, Anisimova has now reached her maiden quarter-final of a major. On Monday she strolled to a 6-3, 6-0, win over Spain’s Aliona Bolsova. Continuing her run of not dropping a set in the tournament so far. On route to the milestone, she also knocked out 11th seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“I feel like it’s been building up. I don’t really feel like I’m young and first time.” Anisimova commented about being the youngest French Open quarter-finalist since 2006.
“I have been playing a lot of matches. Last year I took a little bit of time off, but it didn’t really affect me. I’m kind of getting used to it already.”

Born to Russian parents, Anisimova’s family moved to America in 1998. Looking to find better opportunities for their eldest daughter Maria, who went on to play collegiate tennis in Pennsylvania. They settled in Florida and it would be Amanda who turned out to be the sporting star of the family.

A successful junior career saw Anisimova rise to as high as No.2 in the world. In 2017 she won the US Open girls’ title without dropping a set. A year prior, she also reached the final of the junior competition in Roland Garros. However, she was denied the title by Switzerland’s Rebeka Masarova.

On the professional tour, Anisimova’s breakout occurred last year in Indian Wells. Despite her young age, she shocked Petra Kvitova on route to the fourth round. Becoming the youngest player to defeat a top 10 opponent since 2005. Prior to that tournament, she had only contested two main-draw matches at tour-level. Following on from Indian Wells, Anisimova has rocketed up the rankings to a current ranking best of 51st. In April she won her first WTA title at the Copa Colsanitas Open in Colombia.

“I like to step into the court. I feel like on clay I have been kind of getting used to it more because it’s different than hard, and I’m really aggressive on hard.” Anisimova explains about her style of play.
“I have been kind of mixing it up with playing higher and playing lower, so mixing up my shots. I feel like I have to work a lot on my serve. So that’s really important on the clay surface, too.”

Anisimova grew up being taught by her father, but is now under the guidance of Jaime Cortes. A former professional player from Colombia, who also has an academy in his home country. Another member of her team is fitness trainer Yutaka Nakamura, who travelled on the tour with Maria Sharapova between 2011-2018.

“No player is ever a finished product.” She states. “I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of building to do.”

The next test of the America player’s talent will occur on Tuesday at the French Open. Already the first player born in the 2000s to reach the last eight of a major, Anisimova faces defending champion Simona Halep. A challenge she is relishing.

“I can’t describe how excited I am.” She said. “It’s amazing playing her. She won it (the French Open) the previous year. So honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better matchup. I’m just extremely happy and excited for the next round.”

On paper, it should be a straightforward win for third seed Halep based on both ranking and experience. However, don’t rule out a fearless Anisimova. Anything is possible in the world of tennis.

 

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Women’s No.1 Ash Barty Undecided On US Open Participation

The French Open champion speaks out about the possibility of her travelling to America later in the season.

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Australian tennis star Ash Barty has become the latest top name to express caution over the prospect of heading to the US Open in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

All professional tournaments have been either suspended or cancelled until at least July 31st due to the worldwide health crises. However, officials are hoping to kick-start the Tour again in August with the United States Tennis Association eager to hold their premier event in New York. With there yet to be any formal decision from the USTA, speculation is mounting over what is going to be done to make the tournament safe. Including the possibility of holding the event behind closed doors.

Barty, who won her maiden grand slam title at the French Open last year, has cautiously welcomed talks about getting the Tour going again. Although she is not committing to heading to America until more information is known. It is unclear what the WTA’s plans are regarding their schedule, but it has been reported that the ATP will host a zoom conference with their players next Wednesday followed by coaches the week after.

“It’s exciting that tennis is being talked about again and things are moving in the right direction for us to start competing,” Barty told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“But I’d need to understand all of the information and advice from the WTA and the USTA before making a decision on the US events.”

The 24-year-old has said she needs to take into account how any upcoming plans will also affect her team. For example, if they will also be exempt from the 14-day quarantine like players. Torben Beltz, who is the coach of women’s player Donna Vekic, recently disclosed some of the approaches being considered by the WTA. Speaking to the Advantage Podcast, Beltz said the ideas include limiting players to only having one person travelling with them.

“It’s not just me, it’s my team I have to consider,” she said.

Barty’s comments come a day after reigning US Open men’s champion Rafael Nadal insisted that the Tour shouldn’t resume again until all players are able to travel. Asked if he would have gone to New York if the event was taking place right now, the 19-time grand slam champion said no.

“If we are not able to organise a tournament that is not safe enough or fair enough where every player from every part of the world needs to have the chance to play the tournament we can’t play, that’s my feeling.” Nadal told reporters on Thursday.
“My feeling is that we need to wait a little bit more. We are in a worldwide sport. For me it is not the same as football or a tournament that can be played in one country. When you mix people from all over the world the complications are completely different. I am a little bit worried about that.”

It is expected that the USTA will make a final decision regarding the US Open by the middle of this month. It is looking more likely the tournament will be going ahead in some capacity with reports suggesting the Cincinnati Open could also be moved to the same venue and take place a week prior.

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Former No.1 Ana Ivanovic Names The Toughest Opponent Of Her Career

The three-time grand slam finalist didn’t chose the likely candidates such as Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova when asked about her most difficult rival.

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2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic has played many stars of the WTA Tour throughout her career, but has made a surprising revelation about who she felt was the most difficult to play.

 

Ivanovic took on the likes of Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina in all three of the grand slam finals she contested. She only managed to win one out of her 10 meetings with Serena Williams and formed a high-profile rivalry with compatriot Jelena Jankovic. Nevertheless, when asked who her ultimate test is on the Tour, she mentioned none of them names.

Instead, she said her most troublesome rival during her career was Karolina Pliskova. The 2016 US Open runner-up who is currently ranked third in the world on the WTA Tour. The two clashed five times over a two-year period (2014-2016) with the Czech winning all of those encounters. Overall Ivanovic won just one out of 11 sets played between the two.

“For me the hardest player to play against was Pliskova. It was really hard. The last few years (of my career) we played a few times and to read her serve, you wouldn’t expect the shot to be coming the way it was,” she told Eurosport’s Hanging out with Babsi.
“She could really disguise her game very well and I like to read and play the game. Which is why I love playing on the clay. But with her it was very difficult.“

Fellow former tennis pro Barbara Schett, who conducted the interview with Ivanovic, agreed with the verdict on Pliskova. Pliskova has won 16 WTA titles so far in her career and earned $19,997,689 in prize money. Which is $4 million more than what Ivanovic has earnt.

“She takes control really early in the rally and doesn’t give you any time. I’ve never played against her but I can imagine it is very uncomfortable,” said Schett.
“You don’t really get into rallies and she has a great serve. She disguises (her shots) very well and it is not always easy to see,” Ivanovic then added.

Tough task for Clijsters

Besides looking back on her career, Ivanovic is still keeping a watchful eye on what is taking in place in the sport. Recently another former rival Kim Clijsters began her comeback to the Tour at the age of 36. The mother-of-three has played in two tournaments so far, but has lost both of her opening matches to Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta.

Ivanovic, who is four years younger than the Belgian, says she has been impressed by the comeback. Although she believes it will be hard for her to return back to the top.

“I have been watching some of her matches and she has been striking the ball amazingly well, but I really hope she can get back to that level to play like she used to,” she said.
“Personally, I don’t think it’ll be easy after being out for so many years.”

Clijsters first retired back in 2007 before returning a couple years later by winning three out of her four grand slam titles. She then hung up her racket for a second time in 2012 before returning once again this season.

“It’s amazing what she achieved. I still respect her so much, it’s just difficult to imagine now after having three kids and being out for so long to make a comeback,” Ivanovic commented.
“Not because she’s not fit, but because your body just reacts differently. When you are out of competition you realise how much fine-tuning is necessary and she’s been out a while.”

Ivanovic retired from Tennis in December 2016 at the age of 29.

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Wimbledon Champion Simona Halep Wary About Return To Tour

The world No.2 is expecting a tough time when she returns to action following the lengthy suspension of the sport due to COVID-19.

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Simona Halep has admitted that she has concerns about returning to tennis following a lengthy period away from the sport.

 

The two-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since winning the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended or cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are hoping to get the sport back on its feet during the summer but an exact return date is still to be confirmed with the US Open set to announce next month if their tournament will go ahead or not.

Spending her lockdown in Romania, Halep is expecting a tough time when she returns to action due to having a lack of match play. To fill the void, some top 10 players have entered into domestic tournaments. Both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova are playing tournaments in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina is set to play in a behind the doors event in Berlin in July. Halep is yet to publicly commit to playing any such event.

“My longest break before the lockdown has been of 3-4 weeks and [returning to competitions] was very difficult for me. You lose pace, you lose focus … and then physically, if you idle about for a whole week you’ve lost half a year,” news agency AGERPRES quoted the 28-year-old as saying.
“ I don’t know what others have done during this time, maybe some did training runs, maybe they did strength workouts, I don’t know, I can’t assume. But I feel it on my own skin that it will be a bit difficult for me. It matters a lot that I haven’t had official matches. You can train five hours a day for a whole year, if you are not on an official game, you’re out when you step on court … I mean, you’re not in the game at all. There’s a big difference.”

Despite her concerns, Halep’s time away from the sport has allowed her to appreciate things she wouldn’t usually have time to do due to the demanding travelling requirements of tennis. Speaking about the lockdown, she says it has enabled her to evaluate her time on the Tour as well as the future.

“I learned a lot from the two-month isolation. I realized that in the last 6 years I’ve been actually on a total lockdown,” she explains.
“It occurred to me that I have to change something in my life, in order to also develop on the emotional and personal side. The fact that I’ve been on lockdown for 6 years has helped me become world No. 1, but now, for me to have a happy life without tennis, I am slowly trying to experience new feelings, see something else.”

Halep started 2020 by winning 10 out of 12 matches played. Besides her triumph in Dubai, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open before losing to Garbine Muguruza. Halep is one of four women to have already made more than $1 million in prize money this season.

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