Coach on French Open star Amanda Anisimova: 'Just a matter of when'

By Alex Butler
American Amanda Anisimova was born in Freehold Township, N.J. on Aug. 31, 2001, but now lives in Aventura, Fla., near Miami. She is playing in her the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career at the 2019 French Open on Friday in Paris. Photo by David Silpa/UPI
American Amanda Anisimova was born in Freehold Township, N.J. on Aug. 31, 2001, but now lives in Aventura, Fla., near Miami. She is playing in her the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career at the 2019 French Open on Friday in Paris. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

June 6 (UPI) -- Deception is one of the keys to the game for 17-year-old emerging tennis star Amanda Anisimova.

It's that trait that helped the American reach the 2019 French Open semifinals Thursday, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to attain a Grand Slam semifinal.


"She is a strong gal," said Nick Saviano, Anisimova's coach in Plantation, Fla. "She is 5-11 and very naturally powerful."

"The ball explodes off of her racket. It doesn't always look like she's doing that much, but you'll notice that the other gals are having trouble getting to the ball," Saviano said. "She is a very efficient hitter. She has worked very, very hard. I would say she is a big shot maker. She will hit a lot of winners."

The New Jersey native now living in Aventura, Fla., near Miami, hit 25 of those winners in her straight sets upset of defending French Open champion Simona Halep during Thursday's quarterfinal quarrel. It was their first meeting on the Women's Tennis Association tour.


Anisimova also is the youngest American woman in the final four at Roland-Garros since Jennifer Capriati (14) in 1990 and youngest American woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Venus Williams (17) in 1997.

Halep entered the match ranked No. 3 in the world, while Anisimova is No. 51. Anisimova was ranked No. 192 in the world at the end of 2017, while Halep has been world No. 1 in back-to-back years.

"I don't think it will sink in, at least not for today," Anisimova told reporters. "It's crazy, I really can't believe the result."

She might be slowly taking it all in now, but the rest of the world is watching a shooting star, coming from obscure darkness and illuminating the sport. The teen is shifting interest and eyes from the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Final and other sporting events to the clay courts of Roland-Garros.

French fans cheered her on during the upset. She is the only American remaining in the women's or men's field. Her next opponent, Australian Ashleigh Barty, eliminated fellow American Madison Keys in the other quarterfinal, setting up a final-four matchup.

Anisimova is looking to compete in her first Grand Slam, while her coach looks on from South Florida.


You could tell she was special at 13

It was at age 13 when Saviano could tell Anisimova was a special player. And Saviano knows exactly what special should look like. The owner of Saviano High Performance Tennis has ties to the sport for more than 40 years, working with stars like Capriati, Sloane Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard, Monica Puig and many more elite men's and women's players.

"She was on track to be a top world-class player," Saviano told UPI. "I've been blessed to be with a lot of great players over the years. Not all of them I have worked with, but a number of them I have been fortunate enough to. Usually at 12 to 14, you know they are going to be at least a special talent."

Anisimova was born in 2001, three years after her parents Konstantin and Olga Anisimova, moved from Russia. She followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Maria, in picking up an interest in tennis. Maria went on to play at the University of Pennsylvania.

Konstantin has always been Amanda's primary coach, but her dad took her to Saviano when she was 11 in hopes of developing and improving her game. She began working alongside Saviano and her father in the sessions -- a relationship that continues to this day.


The Breakthrough

"I'm not surprised where she is at," Saviano said. "I've been very clear with her. She became a top world-class player. Provided, she stayed healthy, that was going to happen. It was just a matter of when."

Saviano said he is not going to communicate with Anisimova before the biggest match of her life.

"I'm not even going to send her a text until after the tournament because my hope is that she continues," he said.

But Anisimova is very mature, despite not being able to vote or walk into a casino in the United States. Saviano says this moment isn't too big for her. She isn't ignorant of the magnitude of her surroundings.

She had a breakthrough at the 2018 Australian Open, taking out No. 11 Aryna Sabalenka in the round of 32, before falling to Petra Kvitova in the round of 16. The strong-serving teen also won her first tour event, claiming the 2019 Copa Colsanitas title in April in Bogota, Colombia.

"I can say confidently she is well aware of what's going on," Saviano said. "She is very sharp. She has been brought up in a tennis family. She has been familiar with playing pro tennis now for more than a couple of years. She has just matured. This has been a very steep climb. She has gone up, but it has been very steady."


Anisimova says she is very eager to return to the court as soon as possible. She'll be granted that wish with a quick turnaround for a matchup against Barty at 5 a.m. EDT Friday on Court Suzanne Lenglen in Paris. If Anisimova wins, her world ranking will jump inside the top-20.

Barty also is appearing in her first Grand Slam semifinal.

"I think [Anisimova] is going to continue to get better and better over the years," Saviano said. "She is very young. I think she is one of the emerging young talents in the game that is going to be here for multiple years."

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