Amanda Anisimova is fearless. As “tough as nails,” Lindsay Davenport said, as she called this French Open semifinal match between the 17-year-old American and her opponent, eighth-seeded Ashleigh Barty, on Friday. In the end, though, at the point when champions bite down, Barty established her dominance and sent the kid packing. Barty has her mind to thank for that, as she moves to her first major final.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this,” Davenport said, as Anisimova dug out of a 15-40, 0-5, deficit to win the first set in a tiebreak.
Anisimova went on to open the second with gusto, winning 17 consecutive points and going up 3-0. Barty, normally calm and collected, showed signs of annoyance, as Anisimova’s grasp tightened.
“In the last 10-15 years we haven’t seen these teens come up,” Davenport said. “Her work ethic. Her ability to process information.”
Martina Hingis was on Davenport’s mind, as well as Venus and Serena Williams. These are the teenagers from the late 1990s who won major after major. Had it not been for Iva Majoli upsetting Hingis in the French Open final in 1997, the Swiss would have won a calendar-year Grand Slam.
Fast forward to this windy, cold day in Paris, some 20 years on, and we’re again witnessing a resurgence of women’s tennis from the grassroots — teenagers busting through the biggest events of the game to dominate, not just satisfied to roll into week two.
From an even bigger perspective, this is Anisimova’s fourth major. She’s the first woman born in the 2000s to reach a major semifinal, and she hadn’t dropped a set before Friday. The last time that happened? Venus Williams, in 1997, at the U.S. Open.
Barty was down at 0-3 in the second, but she was not done. She ran off six games to grab the second, 6-3, setting the stage for a tell-all final showdown in the third.
“It’s windy. It’s cold. It’s raining,” Davenport said. “And these players have been able to execute a high level.”
Anisimova’s flat balls, with little clearance over the net, edged her closer to defeat, as Barty’s keener court sense lead to loopy, deep groundstrokes with lots of margin and far fewer errors. Barty was a game away from the final, earning three match points at 5-2 in the third. Anisimova saved them all.
Barty earned more match points when serving for the match at 5-3. Anisimova saved multiple match points again. Barty had a tough time winning the very last point… but she kept creating chances to do so.
Finally, she converted one.
The topsy-turvy match came to a close — 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 — as winds picked up and then scattered the clay around Court Suzanne Lenglen. As fearless as Anisimova was, Barty’s experience and mind rose to the occasion. When players’ games run neck-and-neck with each other, the deciding factor seems frequently to be the occasion, and who can move from one point to the next without losing enthusiasm.
Barty will play 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in the women’s singles final. This teen defeated Johanna Konta, 7-5, 7-6(2). This story is to be continued.
Ash Barty’s mind gives her a chance to write a happy ending in Paris.
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